A History of Kauai’s Halfway Bridge

Long ago on Kauai, when Native Hawaiians traveled along a trail that once crossed Huleia Stream where Halfway Bridge was later erected, they would stop before wading across to leave an offering they believed would ensure their safe passage into the domain of another demigod.

Their acts of spiritual tribute are the origin of the many ghost stories and Pele and Night Marcher sightings connected with bridge crossings at Huleia Stream that have arisen since then.

Even to this day, some local folks consider Halfway Bridge along Kaumualii Highway to be haunted at night by evil spirits.

And, there are those who suspect that the great number of traffic fatalities and injuries that have occurred there over the years are somehow a consequence of their malevolent handiwork.

Be that as it may, the first bridge to span Huleia Stream was built in 1856 by sugar planter Herman Widemann, who made a claim of $99 to the Hawaiian government for his labor.

Made of wood, it was called “Halfway Bridge,” since it was situated very roughly halfway along the road between Lihue and Koloa.

Then in 1919, a concrete girder bridge, 150 feet long, but only 17 feet wide, replaced Widemann’s original wooden bridge, which had long been braced to keep it standing and had finally gone beyond repair.

Another concrete bridge replaced the 1919 bridge in 1927, since the 1919 bridge was only wide enough for one vehicle and had sharp turns at its approaches, which became slippery in wet weather, causing accidents.

This new concrete bridge, constructed on the older roadbed and designed by R. L. Garlinghouse, eliminated both turns and widened the bridge to allow two vehicles to pass comfortably.

A decade later, in 1937, another bridge was built by Hawaiian Contracting Company, Ltd., to replace the 1927 bridge with funding provided by the Federal Aid Highway Program.

Its 13 creosote-treated wooden piers, set atop the concrete deck of the 1927 bridge, supported its own concrete deck.

In 1989, dedication ceremonies were held at the opening of the current Halfway Bridge, a much wider 420-foot long concrete structure.

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Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

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