Kuhio Highway in for repairs

LIHUE — Scott Lever has driven on his share of roads on Kauai — both good and bad.

The one particular stretch of Kuhio Highway between Ahukini Road and Rice Street in Lihue, he said, is not one of the better ones. 

“The condition of the road is terrible and it is dangerous — people try to drive around the potholes and maybe swerve into the other lane or too close to the curb,” said Lever, who drives down the stretch of road at least five or six days a week. “It is a road hazard. The road is a road hazard.”

Though he has never been in an accident along the road, Lever said he has seen his share of close calls, such as those who are reversing out of parking spaces in front of the old Garden Island Motors and Garden Island Publishing Company Buildings along Kuhio Highway. 

“Unfortunately, it’s a road that was built a hundred years ago that can handle neither the current traffic pattern nor the traffic volume as is evidenced by the condition of the road,” Lever said.

That could change over the next couple of weeks as state Department of Transportation contractors work on reconstructing deteriorated pavement areas along Kuhio Highway between Rice Street in Lihue and Laukini Road in Kapaia before resurfacing the busy roadway. 

The $2.5 million project, DOT Kauai District Engineer Ray McCormick said, will take place in conjunction with the active $2.16 million effort to repair and resurface Ahukini Road in Lihue.

Funding for that work, which began in February, was incorporated into the state department’s 2013-2014 fiscal year budget, McCormick said.

The shift to include work on Kuhio Highway, however, began a few weeks ago after state lawmakers began receiving phone calls and emails from residents about deteriorating conditions along the busy roadway, especially near the intersection of Kuhio Highway and Kali Road.

“In the past few weeks, our offices have been receiving more and more phone calls and emails regarding the ongoing roadwork, with the majority of these conversations having been specifically about this intersection,” Sen. Ron Kouchi wrote in an email. 

Rep. James “Jimmy” Kunane Tokioka said a site visit by state DOT officials last week allowed them to re-evaluate the project.

“They (Tokioka and Kouchi) came to us and said, ‘Listen, the community is very concerned about this road so can we come up with a possible solution,’ and that’s what we basically came up with,” DOT Interim Director Ford Fuchigami said. “We decided to go ahead, cap this, get it done as soon as possible and then get back to the other project at a later date.” 

Work along Ahukini Road, McCormick said, will be stopped within the next week and redirected to Kuhio Highway.

“We’ve moved off of Ahukini because this area, with the rains, is getting worse and we want to take care of it to give a smoother, safer ride for the public,” McCormick said.

Any work done on Kuhio Highway, he added, will be done at night, so no lane closures are expected throughout the day.

Work on Kuhio Highway, state DOT officials estimate, should be complete by the July 18.

“Their focus right now is going to be fixing bad areas,” McCormick said. “As they start fixing them, you’re going to start to see things smooth out. You’ll notice it right away. It’ll be an extremely pretty project when it’s done.”

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