HANAPEPE — Kaumualii Highway traffic across the Hanapepe River will be rerouted to a temporary bridge starting today, according to the senior manager of an infrastructure project to build a replacement for the existing, two-lane bridge that has spanned the river for over a century.
Pedestrians and bicyclists will be directed to the county bridge on Hanapepe Road. Residents on Iona Road will be directed to Pepe Road, Kuiloa Road and Kona Road to access the temporary bridge toward Waimea.
Access to Iona Road heading toward Kalaheo will be detoured via Pepe Road or neighboring streets, as stopping on Kaumualii Highway is not recommended.
“It’s not ideal, I understand. We just couldn’t find a better way,” said Senior Project Manager Alan Preston with W.W. Clyde &Company, the contractor hired to handle the bulk of the construction for the project, which was developed by the Central Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration, in cooperation with the state Department of Transportation.
The cost of the Hanapepe River bridge project is $35.2 million, 80 percent of which is federal funding and 20 percent from state funding.
Traffic will be diverted for “at least a year,” according to Preston, who said the new bridge is scheduled to be completed by late-summer 2020, at which point cleanup crews will start working to remove the temporary bridge and other debris.
Preston said traffic today will be disrupted “a lot,” but that will level off once traffic is shifted. He predicted significant work will cause slowdowns a few times a month but otherwise the impact will be “pretty minimal,” with the normal construction workday lasting from around 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.
Engineers, environmentalists and officials from state and federal agencies gave presentations and answered questions about the Hanapepe River bridge project at a meeting Wednesday night at the Hanapepe Public Library, attended by about 60 people.
Hanapepe residents seemed fairly satisfied with the information provided, if somewhat annoyed at the prospect of dealing with periodic traffic jams, the daily rumble of heavy machinery and constant dust — inherent byproducts of any major construction project.
“Well, that’s progress. You gotta accept that,” said Al, an elderly gentleman who was not interested in giving a last name. “Sooner or later you gotta replace it.”
Al lives 200 feet from the bridge, and when heavy construction is underway — when supporting posts have to be sunk deep in the ground, for instance — the noise is deafening. He knows from experience.
“When they drive the piles, the whole walls shake,” he said. “Let me tell you, it’s not fun when they drive the piles.”
Manuel and Sharon Cabral, owners of Uncle’s Kitchen, a restaurant that sits near the foot of the old bridge, said they aren’t looking forward to the crunch of vehicles they expect to see over the next 12 months.
When asked what she thinks of the project, Sharon Cabral thought for a few moments before giving a one-word answer accompanied by a resigned shrug — “Traffic.”
Manuel Cabral said he has seen a significant increase in the number of cars driving by his restaurant since flooding on the North Shore closed access to popular beaches beyond the Hanalei checkpoint on the other side of the island.
“One time I think I counted 250 cars in 30 minutes,” he said. “Going one way!”
The new bridge, although 16 feet wider — enough room for two lanes of traffic and a sidewalk on each side — is designed to look nearly identical to the existing Hanapepe River bridge, built back in 1911, including the distinctive parapet. Preston assured people the final product will “look very similar to the existing bridge.”
“We designed the new bridge to have some of those aesthetic qualities of the old bridge design,” said Lisa Hemesath, an environmental protection specialist with the Federal Highway Administration, explaining that the idea was to “sort of mimic the old bridge.”
Hemesath’s main focus at the meeting was to discuss how construction is impacting the original bridge and the nearby levee, and to explain some of the steps being taken to preserve the character of the structures, both of which are protected under the National Historic Preservation Act.
“We’re having an adverse affect on both those structures,” she said.
Hemesath described some of the options being considered by project administrators for salvaging “character-defining features of the bridge,” and asked the audience to fill out feedback forms to indicate how they would like to see treasured pieces of the bridge incorporated into nearby public spaces.
When the light stanchions were mentioned, one woman near the front row yelled out, “Save them! That’s why I’m here!”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.