KILAUEA — Nearly a year after April floods triggered a sinkhole and washed out a portion of Kahiliholo Road, residents are celebrating its reopening.
But they’re also wondering what took so long.
“It’s really impacted us on the road all year,” said Janet Eisenbach, a Kilauea resident whose children and grandchildren live just past where the road was closed.
A 30-year resident of the area, Eisenbach said it’s routine to walk the road with her dogs and family, some of which are still in strollers, but she had to completely adjust her schedule because of the repairs, as traffic headed to the mile-long, dirt detour road.
She says she checked in on the project many times throughout the past 11 months, looking for progress.
“I’d take my dogs to the dog park and wonder if anyone’s doing anything. There were guys standing there every day. There were people there, but nothing was happening,” she said.
In December, the county said the project was on schedule and that the anticipated opening date was Feb. 11.
“In general, rainy weather and most recently the Feb. 10 wind storm have been the main reasons why work on Kahiliholo Road was delayed,” said Lyle Tabata, deputy county engineer.
That windstorm caused damage to a power line that needed to be replaced before County of Kauai contractors could resume work.
“In addition, the removal of fallen trees and other debris in the area as a result of the windstorm needed to be cleared for the safety of the road crew,” Tabata said.
The reopening of Kahiliholo Road, and the closure of the detour through Common Ground and the Wai Koa Plantation, was announced Monday, and area resident Patricia Rouen said she was thrilled when she got the email announcement.
“It is hard to express what an impact the closure has had on my quality of life for the last year,” Rouen said. “My reaction to the opening was a profound sense of relief that my life could resume some normalcy and I could leave my home on a whim if I chose to.”
Rouen and Eisenbach were two of hundreds who were impacted — there are 180 units in the Kalihiwai Ridge Homeowners Association alone, and anyone living above the culvert collapse at the bottom of Kahiliholo Road was affected.
To get from Kalihiwai Ridge and the surrounding area, vehicles had to take a mile-long detour that many said wasn’t maintained well enough for the amount of traffic it accommodated, and was riddled with potholes.
Eisenbach and others say people were driving too fast on both the bypass and the drivable part of Kahiliholo. Others said they endeavored to drive slowly and the detour road actually helped reconnect the community.
“I’ll miss driving slow and waving to my neighbors,” said Skylar Brown. “That experience, island time and aloha spirit doesn’t happen often enough.”
Repairs to Kahiliholo Road were contracted out by the County of Kauai, and needed repairs included the installation of a precast concrete box culvert to replace the culvert that broke in April. Other required work included pouring concrete, replacing drainage infrastructure, backfilling the culvert area, and the reconnection of permanent utilities.
Workers still need to repave about 30 feet of the road and replace guardrails for the project to be deemed complete, but the road is open to through traffic.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.