Kuhio repairs snarl traffic

Work crews were working as fast as they could yesterday to repave the section of Kuhio Highway on the North Shore that was damaged in the March 14 flood.

By 6:30 p.m, the repaving was done.

A break in the weather allowed for the work to be done, said state Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

Work began at noon to re-open two, 11-foot wide lanes of traffic for lighter vehicles.

The section of the highway that goes over the Wailapa Stream was closed for a day and a half after the flood and was down to one lane.

The construction area was intermittently shut down to traffic while heavy equipment was brought into the work area. And traffic was backed up while the repaving work went on.

Gina Zapara, a Kilauea resident, complained that the construction stifled traffic flow in and out of the North Shore.

“There are thousands of people sitting on the road,” said Zapara by cell phone to The Garden Island while she was caught in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Kalihiwai Bridge en route to Kilauea shortly after 4:30 p.m. yesterday.

“I can see 45 cars in front of me and at least 50 to 60 cars behind me,” Zapara said.

She said residents and tourists are so fed up with the traffic delays that some are walking on the highway to get to their destinations.

Zapara said her children spent more than two hours driving from Princeville to Kilauea, a distance of seven miles. “We have our school kids, and they (state DOT officials) didn’t notify any of the schools that they were doing this,” she said.

“I don’t mind myself. I can deal with this,” Zapara said. “I am worried about the tourists, people trying to get to the airport (from the North Shore).”

The traffic delays would not have occurred had the DOT contractor, Jas W. Glover, made the road repairs during the evening when fewer vehicles would be on it, Zapara said.

“There was no rain on Monday (night) and very little rain, Tuesday,” she said. “There is just no excuse (for daytime work that has created traffic jams).”

According to a press release, the transportation department is doing interim repair work that would allow for two lanes of traffic for lighter vehicles along that stretch of highway that was damaged earlier this month by the flash flood that claimed seven lives.

“After checking the stability of the highway, we decided that the road can be rebuilt for two lanes of traffic for lighter vehicles,” said state DOT Director Rodney Haraga.

Because of space and weight constraints along the roadway, heavier vehicles such as delivery trucks, will continue to be contra-flowed across that stretch of highway, Haraga said.

The department is currently designing long-term repairs for the damaged portion of the highway.

Those who want more information about heavier vehicles going over the roadway may call Steven Kyono at 274-3111. He is the engineering program manager for the DOT’s Kaua’i district office.

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