Burning the midnight oil

LIHUE — State officials are proposing nighttime construction to mitigate traffic impacts and fast track a project to improve flow for more than 27,000 vehicles that cross the old Lihue Mill Bridge daily.

The work will include a new bridge and the rehabilitation of the old one, doubling the number of lanes. But before construction workers begin burning the midnight oil, the state Department of Transportation needs a permit for the noise from dusk until dawn.

“The nighttime work will allow for the placement of the girders on the new bridge as well as other work that needs to be completed in order to open the new bridge,” DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said.

She added that the primary purpose of the nighttime work is to lessen the impact on the daytime traffic through the area.

To be able to conduct work at night, the DOT is applying for a Community Noise Variance with the state Department of Health. There was a public meeting Tuesday evening — three residents showed up — to gather input on the project to be included in the noise variance request.

Sluyter said the public feedback received was positive. There will be no other public meetings, but DOT is accepting written comments until Wednesday.

The work would last 44 nights over 16 months.          

Sluyter said the construction project is planned to be completed in October 2014.

“Planned improvements include rehabilitation of the existing Lihue Mill Bridge to carry two lanes of east-bound traffic and construction of a new bridge span on the mauka side to carry two lanes of west-bound traffic,” a DOT press release states.

The project also includes the recent realignment of Hoomana Road to accommodate the new 50-foot wide, 319-foot long bridge.

“The new bridge and widened highway will benefit the public by increasing roadway capacity to meet current and future travel demand through the Kaumualii Highway corridor, and maintaining system connectivity in the event of a traffic incident,” the DOT states.

The realignment of Hoomana Road was done from March through June.

The DOT is working on widening the mauka side of Kaumualii Highway between Rice Street and Uahi Street and beginning work on the new bridge.

The construction is scheduled to be finished by December.

In January, the DOT is planning to widen the same portion of the highway — on the makai side — and rehabilitate the existing Lihue Mill Bridge, originally built in 1936. This stage is supposed to last until October 2014.

The bridge rehabilitation would include reinforcing its structure; constructing the steel structure supports for the widening; demolishing the bridge’s deck; and constructing a new deck and railing. The rehabilitated bridge would measure about 50 feet wide and 347 feet long.

To shorten the duration of bridge construction, minimize disruption to traffic and ensure the safety of drivers, the DOT is proposing a series of nighttime work activities.

Sluyter said the DOT is “always seeking better ways to improve traffic flow through our work zones so as these are determined we will implement those measures that work best.”

During the proposed dates for the Community Noise Variance, the DOT would perform nighttime traffic switches, waterline tie-ins, a girder placement and concrete paving.

The state agency is asking permission to conduct work from midnight to 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday; from midnight to 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday; and all day Sunday.

No work would be done during holidays.

The project contractor will have a job site inspector, who would receive potential noise complaints and monitor quiet work procedures.

Equipment with gas or air exhaust will be equipped with mufflers. Noise attenuation blankets will also be used.

Rather than backup alarms, the contractor will use flagmen, hand signals, radio communication or “white noise” backup signals.

Pneumatic tools will be restricted to 6 to 10 p.m. each day, and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“We ask for the public’s continued patience as we work to improve Kauai’s transportation infrastructure,” Sluyter said.

If construction noise levels exceed permitted levels or if there are noise complaints, the DOT may reschedule specific work activities to other less noise-sensitive times of the night or install temporary noise abatement measures at affected receptor locations, the release states.

Written comments can be sent until Wednesday to Michael Hinazumi, Assistant District Engineer at the state DOT Highways Division, Kauai District at 1720 Haleukana St., Lihue, HI 96766.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or lazambuja@thegardenisland.com

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