WAILUA — For weeks, Hawaii Department of Transportation workers in their yellow coats have been floating their barge through yellow barriers around the base of the bridge over Wailua River.
And under the Bryan J. Baptiste Memorial Bridge, commonly known as Wailua River Bridge, signs are posted to some of the pilings with black duct tape. It warns removal of a pile of shopping carts and dingy mattresses, pieces of clothing and discarded beverage containers.
It’s all part of the plan to fortify the Wailua River Bridge.
“This mitigation project will reduce the chance of the bridge piers being scoured by water in future events,” said Shelly Kunishige, HDOT spokeswoman. “(The signs) were posted by HDOT staff to facilitate the removal of unauthorized property at the site, which in addition to being unsightly pose health and safety concerns.”
Scouring refers to erosion around bridge foundations, which happens when the Wailua River swells and rushes into the ocean after heavy rains. Large pieces of trees and other debris are often caught between the pier footings and expedite the scouring.
So, HDOT workers are placing large grout bags at the footings of piers 2 and 3. The yellow floating objects around the piers are barriers to help contain debris during the construction.
The majority of the work is anticipated to be complete by mid-February. Motorists may experience some delays as crews access the work site and breakdown the staging area, said Kunishige.
Estimated cost for the project is between $1 million and $5 million, according to HDOT, but no specifics were available on whether the project is on budget.
The contractor for the work is Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc., which is using a local workforce for the project. Specialty work, including some underwater work, is being done by off-island subcontractors
Removal of the blankets, bottles and other household items under the bridge could take a little while longer than the bridge project itself.
State law says HDOT can remove anything that’s stored on a highway right of way without the entity’s permission — that includes the “placement or storage of structures, vehicles, equipment or other objects.”
The only caveat is that the property has to be in the area and unattended without authorization for at least 24 consecutive hours. After that, they can clean up the area at the department’s discretion. The law doesn’t give a deadline or timeframe within which the property must be removed.
HDOT’s procedure is to provide at least 24 hours’ notice prior to enforcement of that law.
“We do not currently have removal of the items scheduled but will work it into our highways maintenance as resources allow,” Kunishige said.
Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.