Kilauea Bridge to open early

After nearly nine months of work, the new Kilauea Bridge is set to open before the end of November, allowing residents, workers and visitors two access points to the former plantation town and alleviating traffic congestion, according to the contractor in charge of the project.

Job Superintendent Kenn Hallquist of Kiewit Pacific Co. said yesterday he hoped paving of the new bridge would take place this week, with “final touches” like a guardrail and landscaping tentatively scheduled to be completed by Nov. 26, weather permitting.

While persistent rain makes that timetable less than a certainty — Hallquist said paving requires roughly 24 hours of consecutive dry conditions — what is assured is that the project will be finished ahead of schedule and under budget, according to county spokeswoman Mary Daubert.

After starting in March of this year, construction was originally expected to continue until January or February of 2009. Hallquist said the process has largely gone smoothly from start to finish, and that working with county officials and community members has been a positive experience.

“The county of Kaua‘i is the best owner I’ve ever worked for,” he said, adding, “We’re in a residential community up here and they’ve worked with us to allow us to work longer hours to get it done, and we’re very appreciative of that.”

Kilauea Neighborhood Association president Linda Pasadava agreed, saying, “We are thrilled at how quickly and efficiently it was done,” noting the neighborhood would be hosting a dedication ceremony and blessing around the turn of the year.

The original Kilauea Bridge, which was built nearly 100 years ago, had seen better days and was causing safety concerns, according to State Rep. Hermina Morita (D-14), who helped push through the $10.2 million in state money that largely funded the project. The county contributed $2.6 million, according to earlier reports.

“We’ve seen across the country how important it is to maintain and upgrade our infrastructure,” Morita said yesterday. “Those are the investments we should be making during this economic downturn.”

Rather than a simple replacement, the new bridge is a considerable upgrade to its predecessor.

According to Hallquist, the bridge will span 112 feet rather than 85, which, along with the removal of the large concrete center pier in favor of a “single span” model, will allow larger flows to go down the Kilauea Stream.

To remain erect without the use of a pier, the new bridge was built from six pre-cast girders weighing 96,000 pounds apiece that were barged from O‘ahu. At 34 feet wide, it will be able to accomodate two lanes of vehicular traffic, plus a 4-foot bike lane on the southbound side and a 4-foot sidewalk on the northbound side, according to Hallquist. The old bridge was only wide enough to allow one car to pass at any given time.

The bridge will have a weight limit of 20 or 25 tons, instead of the 5-ton weight limit the previous incarnation could handle.

“The bridge is historic and the construction (plan) wanted to keep the bridge as close to the original as they could,” Pasadava said. “Now we have a good solid bridge for the next hundred years.”

The bridge, when completed, will allow for the reopening of the Hookui Road entrance into town, thereby easing congestion on Lighthouse Road and the Kolo Road junction with Kuhio Highway, where the state’s Department of Transportation has stationed a temporary traffic signal.

Pasadava said the fate of that signal has yet to be determined, noting that many of the community members who had been against its installment earlier this year have come around because it has helped with the flow of traffic and increased safety.

She said she hoped the state would consider keeping the signal there at least on a trial basis after the bridge is re-opened.

A phone message left for Steve Kyono, Kaua‘i District Engineer for the DOT’s Highways Division, was not returned as of press time.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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