Highway permanent fix months away

State Department of Transportation work crews on Thursday posted electronic speed signs and traffic message boards to deter motorists from speeding on a part of Kuhio Highway in Kilauea that was severely damaged by the March 14 flood.

“People are driving by much too fast,” DOT Director Rodney Haraga told The Garden Island yesterday. “My advice to motorists is to slow down when they go through the area.”

Speeding motorists could run into barriers that were put on the road to prevent accidents, said Haraga, who flew to Kaua’i to talk with DOT Highways Division officials here, and to inspect the repair of the road.

Members of a Jas W. Glover, Ltd. work crew, hired by DOT officials to do emergency repairs, made sufficient repairs to the road to allow both lanes on the highway to reopen by 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The road reopened more than two weeks after the Ka Loko Reservoir in Kilauea breached and sent millions of gallons of water down Wailapa Stream, killing seven people sleeping in two homes.

Three bodies have been recovered, and four persons are still missing and are presumed dead.

Yesterday, Haraga said two electronic message signs to tell motorists to cut their speeds and two speed board signs showing their actual speeds were posted on the Kilauea and Kapa’a sides of the roadway.

No police officers are posted on the roadway now, but the speed signs are urging motorists to drive no faster than 15 mph, Haraga said.

The speed limit on the road-way had been set at 50 mph before the flooding. The speed limit has now been lowered to 25 mph for a reason, Haraga said.

Each lane of the two-lane highway is usually 12 feet wide, but because of the damage and emergency repairs that have gone on so far, they are now each 11-feet wide, Haraga said.

Although the road has been stabilized enough for motorists to drive safely over the road now, the shoulders of the road are barely in existence, Haraga said.

But the “permanent fix,” which could come in two months after design plans are approved, will “have shoulders and a guardrail,” Haraga said.

“We have a consultant and a contractor working on the design, and work could start in two months,” Haraga said. “We will do it right the first time, and do it once.”

The DOT leaders have to get approval of owners who have land on either side of the road, Haraga said. The DOT officials need permission for a contractor to access the lands and to make the repairs, Haraga said.

The contractor will need to bring in equipment and machinery to do the work, Haraga said.

Some residents voiced concerns that the most recent repair work should have been done at night when there was less traffic on the road.

Haraga said the contractor had to do the work when the rains were not a problem.

“We needed the dry day and yesterday (Wednesday) was exceptional,” Haraga said. “And we were very fortunate to get the asphalt to be laid down between storms,” Haraga said.

Steven Kyono, who heads the DOT Highways Division office on Kaua’i, played a key role in the repair, Haraga said.

How?

“Credit goes to Steve Kyono. He ordered the asphalt on the basis it would be sunny (during breaks in the rain), and he was lucky,” Haraga said.

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