Life in the slow lane on N. Shore until June

PRINCEVILLE — North Shore motorists were affected more than any others on Kaua‘i by last month’s deluge when it came to mudslides, flooding and highway closings.  

They still are.

In March, the two-lane highway connecting the  North Shore with the rest of Kaua‘i was closed at times in Kilauea, at the Kalihiwai bridge and in Hanalei and points beyond.

Now the highway between Princeville and Hanalei is down to one lane as workers rebuild half of the roadway that was badly cracked, just feet from the cliff overlooking Hanalei Valley, up the hill from the Hanalei Bridge.

Work began at the site on March 6 and is expected to be finished sometime in June, according to state highway officials.

Meanwhile, thousands of cars are moving through the area, one lane at a time, directed by flaggers on either end of the work area.

State officials estimate that 10,000 cars a day use the one lane that is open — 5,000 each way. The wait usually is not more than a few minutes, but longer during the morning and evening rush hours.

So far,  no complaints have been filed with the highway department, according to Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation.  

“I think people understand what’s happening. If we wanted to make major changes in the road, there would be hell to pay. After all, this is next to one of the wettest spots in the world,” he said.

A business owner in Hanalei said that a June completion date would not impact businesses as much as would one in July and August. “I think everyone’s pretty accepting of the situation. They’re working hard there to finish the job,” said the woman, who declined to give her name.

Raymond McCormack, Kaua‘i district engineer for the department,  said “that side of the island is a moving target” for erosion and mudslides.

The project is expected to cost about $2 million. The state Transportation Department is applying for federal emergency funds to cover most, if not all, of that amount.

The work is being done by two private firms contracted by the state transportation department.

The workers are driving what are called soil nails deep into the ground to stabilize the area prior to actually rebuilding the pavement.

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