Highway re-opens

WAINIHA — A single lane route on Kuhio Highway from Waikoko to Wainiha, is opening to local traffic only, beginning today.

The road will be open to residents driving vehicles under 10,000 pounds and will be open on a limited basis, between the hours of 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., weather and conditions permitting. Staging for the limited local access, will take place at manned checkpoints.

Placards will be issued to Wainiha and Haena residents only and guided access via escort vehicles will be provided on a scheduled alternating basis between Wainiha and Waikoko.

“This is a significant development and I’d like to thank our entire team of responders, who have worked diligently towards reopening a safe pass way for our isolated residents,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., in a news release Thursday.

Future phases of the road work, will likely require reassessment and modification to management of public access through the construction site.

“The full reopening of Kuhio Highway from Waikoko to Wainiha for two-way traffic is expected within three to four months,” the news release says.

Access to the single lane route between Waikoko and Wainiha for local traffic, will be dependent on current weather conditions to ensure safety along the two-mile stretch. The National Weather service has extended a Flash Flood Watch for Kauai, Niihau and Oahu, through late Friday night, the news release says.

“Safety is our first priority as we continue recovery efforts in the areas that were isolated last month by heavy flooding and numerous landslides,” said Gov. David Ige.

Ige said they’re actively deploying disaster response resources to help residents and businesses in those areas.

“I’m pleased that work has progressed to allow residents of Wainiha and Haena to safely use the highway; however, we are asking visitors to enjoy other areas on Kauai, to avoid impacting the ongoing recovery efforts,” Ige said. “We also ask the same of the general public.”

Though residents now have limited road access, Carvalho Jr. said there is still much work to be done in the Wainiha and Haena area.

“While we continue to conduct these emergency operations, this area will be limited to residents only until further notice. We appreciate everyone’s understanding, residents and visitors alike,” he said.

“Residents using the single lane route will be required to adhere to the 10,000-pound weight restriction and speed restrictions as indicated by signs along the route,” the news release says.

On Thursday, the state Department of Transportation was informed by the Federal Highway Administration, that $8 million in quick release funding had been approved for emergency work to restore access to the route between Waikoko and Wainiha.

The current estimate for total emergency costs for the response and recovery work on Kuhio Highway is about $40 million. HDOT will seek FHWA Emergency Relief funding, which is provided on a cost-share basis for repair or reconstruction of highways damaged as a result of natural disasters, the news release says.

“The initial release of funds from FHWA so quickly after the April flood is a great help to state Highways and those dependent on Kuhio Highway as a lifeline for food, supplies and the essentials of daily life,” said state DOT Director Jade Butay. “I’m grateful to U.S. Secretary of transportation Elaine Chao and FHWA Acting Administrator Brandye Hendrickson for the speed with which they’ve replied to our initial requests for funds.”

A detailed schedule for the restoration of unrestricted access to Wainiha and Haena will be available following the upgrade of Waioli, Waipa, and Waikoko Bridges, scheduled to start in June.

Placards for residents may be picked up from the Planning Director Mike Dahilig at the County office at the Hanalei Colony Resort between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Insurance adjusters, utility company personnel, private contractors and others needing access to work in the communities pas the single lane route are asked to coordinate their travel needs through the Kauai Emergency Management Agency at 808-241-1800. Those people with approved access, will need to have their names on a list provided to the personnel at the checkpoints, in order to be allowed through.

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Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com.

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