Smoother road ahead

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    The main section of Kahiliholo Road near Kilauea remains closed due to a huge sinkhole opened up by torrential rains last year.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Construction is ongoing on the project to repair the sinkhole on Kahiliholo Road near Kilauea.

KILAUEA — Residents are cautiously optimistic their lives on Kahiliholo Road will return to the pre-flood normal in the near future after meeting with Mayor Derek Kawakami and hearing progress on repairs to the sinkhole in the road.

“We are excited, but when we see it, we’ll believe it,” said Allen Lamb, who lives on the road that was compromised when April rains washed out a culvert and opened up a sinkhole that stretched over the street.

The County of Kauai says the road will be open to resident traffic on Feb. 11. The project is costing the county nearly $2 million.

After months of traversing a mile-long, pitted dirt detour through Common Grounds and watching no action near the sinkhole, community members voiced enough concerns to grab Kawakami’s attention and triggered the meeting, attended by about 50 residents.

“In recent weeks, the Mayor’s Office noticed an influx of calls (and) messages from Kalihiwai residents regarding the status of the Kahiliholo bypass road as well as the Kahiliholo Road culvert replacement project,” said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.

“As a result, Mayor Kawakami reached out to the Kalihiwai Ridge Community Association and offered to meet with residents to provide an update on the project from Deputy County Engineer Lyle Tabata. The community welcomed our offer to meet them.”

That meeting happened on Jan. 9.

Kawakami said Wednesday the county is grateful to the community association for hosting the meeting.

“Communication is a priority for the County of Kauai, and the meeting allowed county officials to share information and gather concerns from residents who continue to be affected by last year’s flood,” Kawakami said.

Concerns were that there was no visible progress on the construction project to rebuild the road and that the detour road was so washed out and littered with potholes that it was damaging vehicles.

Usually on a three-week rotation for maintenance, residents say the road went seven weeks without being graded.

Heavy rain made the potholes worse.

It was graded just before Christmas, residents say, and that combined with drier weather has made the road much more drivable.

“They’ve done a very good job on the grading,” Lamb said. “If the weather continues this way, it should be OK.”

Patricia Rouen, another resident in the area, said she still has concerns about whether the condition of the detour road will last, and voiced hopes that the project will be completed before the weather takes its toll on the dirt road.

“That has made a difficult situation worse,” she said.

Currently, Kahiliholo Road is a thoroughfare for heavy machinery and is completely blocked with a 20-foot pile of red dirt. Signs and fencing are posted to keep out vehicles and pedestrians, and workers are busy around the site.

According to the county, the sinkhole happened around a culvert, and that culvert has to be replaced before the road can be rebuilt. Hundreds of people have been impacted, as there are more than 180 units in the Kalihiwai Ridge Homeowners Association, and most units are occupied by more than one individual.

Work still to be done on the project is to finish replacing the precast culvert and drainage infrastructure, backfilling and then reconnecting permanent utilities. After that comes the aggregate base course and a temporary wearing surface.

That’s when the road will be reopened for residents, though county workers will have to finish the project by placing the asphalt pavement wearing surface and replacing guardrails.

Weather is a question mark for the whole plan, and as long as that holds, the road will be open in February.

“Kahiliholo Road is anticipated to be reopened on the temporary wearing surface sometime in the latter half of February, weather permitting. The full repair and repaving — including replacing water and utility lines, and replacing guardrails — should be complete by the latter half of March,” Tabata said Wednesday.

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