HANALEI — Just before a one-way bridge between Haena and Wainiha Friday afternoon, a long line of vehicles began to form. Residents and non-governmental workers alike were waiting to be escorted through a single-lane path on Kuhio Highway.
The convoy passed remnants of the flood, still visible alongside the highway. A large tree stump rested on its side on one side of the road, while piles of dirt and debris dotted the mountainside. Construction equipment and road crews worked diligently to clear and repair the road.
A week ago, these communities were still landlocked from the numerous landslides caused by historic April flooding. Many on the North Shore are breathing a sigh of relief over having even limited road access. If they need to, they now can go grocery shopping, or get to work.
Access is granted by the County of Kauai Emergency Management Agency, using a placard system. Movement was steady throughout the week.
Kim Tamaoka, spokesperson for the County of Kauai, said approximately 625 placards have been distributed to residents, and approximately 180 placards have been distributed to non-governmental workers.
There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done for full access to the area, but Tim Sakahara, spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Transportation, said operations to provide residents access have been going well.
“This was a historic event when you look at the impacts,” he said. “We’re still working to clear the incredible amount of debris that came down onto the roadway and subsequently make the repairs. The crews have been working diligently and incredibly hard to make that possible.”
Completing the repair work quickly and granting residents access is a balancing act.
“I think people are appreciative to have that access and to be able to have the escorts through the area,” he said.
Access is restricted to passenger vehicles only, such as sedans, SUVs and pickup trucks, weighing no more than 10,000 pounds. Residents need to follow the escorts and rules while on the road, and access is dependent on the weather.
The bulk of the work, Sakahara said, is clearing out tons of debris left by the flooding and repairing damages associated with the debris.
Currently, HDOT is estimating total cost of repairs for that part of the road to be $40 million. They’re partnering with the Federal Highway Administration to secure funds for the project.
“We’re very grateful to our partners in the federal government,” he said.
“Again, we certainly thank the coordination with the county, the federal government, the contractors and everybody involved on the North Shore of Kauai. Everybody is coordinating the efforts to be in the right places,” Sakahara said.
As for when the highway is expected to be opened permanently, Sakahara said, they’re still looking at a timeline of three to four months.
Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or email@example.com.