LIHUE — Council Chair Mel Rapozo told state transportation officials Wednesday a decision has to be made about the Hanalei Bridge, because it’s inadequate to meet rising traffic demands on the North Shore.
“I understand the community doesn’t want to get rid of that bridge, but if we have to evacuate people for tsunami, or for any kind of natural disaster, wouldn’t you agree it doesn’t matter?” he said.
Rapozo said he’s not proposing to getting rid of the bridge, but suggested the state look at the public safety issue versus convenience, which means they need to consider putting in an additional lane.
Department of Transportation District Engineer Larry Dill agreed. He said there is a possibility of constructing a second bridge across the Hanalei River, parallel to the existing one.
“You saw what happened when we had a little landslide and saw the disruption and the backlog,” Rapozo said. “Our roads up there are inadequate. You can’t put a price tag on that.”
Heavy rains caused two landslides in the same location on Friday morning, blocking Kuhio Highway between Wainiha and Lumahai with several tons of dirt, boulders and debris. The highway fully reopened in both lanes Sunday afternoon.
Talk about the Hanalei Bridge was part of a state presentation during a council committee meeting at the Historic County Building.
The DOT is focusing on projects that address safety and system preservation first, Dill said.
“That’s our priority these days,” he said. “Trying to take care of the system we have out there as well as addressing any safety issues.”
Projects outlined in the Federal-Aid Highways 2035 Transportation Plan, published in 2014, include constructing the Kapaa relief route between Kapule Highway and Kapaa Stream, with the estimated price tag of $600 million; improving airport access from Ahukini Road to Kuhio Highway, to Kapule Highway, which would include realignment and illumination, along with two additional travel lanes with sidewalks and bike lanes or a bicycle path, at about $41 million; and the addition of two travel lanes on Kuhio Highway from Kapule Highway to Mailihuna Road, costing about $128 million.
There isn’t a firm timeline for those projects, as they are dependent on funding and priorities of other state highway needs.
Rep. Dee Morikawa said she has been in conversation with Dill about traffic problems in Kalaheo. Some of the problems, she said, involve crosswalks near the schools and the market that are not lighted.
The discussion was placed on the agenda by Council Vice Chair Ross Kagawa. He said councilmembers often hear concerns about traffic on Kauai.