WAILUA — The Opaekaa Road bridge is on the road to being replaced and the single-lane bridge’s character won’t change much, thanks to input from the community.
The bridge replacement has been in the works for more than a decade, and a double-lane bridge was considered for replacement until 2013, said Lyle Tabata, acting county engineer for the Public Works Department.
“After consideration of input from the community, historic preservation experts, and government representatives, the county determined the single-lane bridge design was the most cost-effective and timely to implement,” Tabata said.
A timeline for the estimated $3 million project hasn’t been released, but a draft environmental assessment is up for public review on the bridge replacement.
Nancy Budd, who lives near Opaekaa Road bridge in Wailua Homesteads, supports leaving the bridge as a one-lane expanse because it slows traffic and maintains character.
“The bridge has been a wonderful part of our community, a place where people slow down and acknowledge each other and shaka,” she said. “In these areas that have these country roads, retaining that is important.”
The Wailua-Kapaa Neighborhood Association has shown support for maintaining the one-lane bridge’s character. The association’s board chair, Rayne Regush, expressed the sentiment in two open letters — one dated June 2008 and another from December 2011.
In the letters, the association acknowledges the need to replace the bridge but advocates for a single-lane that can support weight requirements for emergency vehicles and busses.
“Preserving the historic one-lane bridge does not compromise safety,” Regush told TGI on Tuesday.
And the draft EA proposes just that — a new deck system that will support “any emergency vehicle of current size/weight classes, and rated to support any legal weight of a bus or truck.”
New concrete abutments will be added behind existing abutments, a new concrete deck will rest on top of steel girders, and the deck will have an asphalt pavement overlay, according to the draft EA.
The deck will be marked with bicycle symbols on both approaches.
The design retains and repairs existing visible trusses, which is part of preserving the historic character of the bridge.
The bridge is on both the state and national registers of historic places, according to Kauai Historical Society.
It is 73-feet long and about 33-feet wide, was built in 1890 as part of the Wailua Bridge and is the only known British-made iron bridge in the United States. The steel from the Wailua Bridge was repurposed in 1919 for the Opaekaa Road bridge.
“I’m delighted they’re replacing it, and I’m delighted they’re looking at trying to keep as much of it in tact as they can,” Budd said.
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