My name is Cyndy Johnson and I am a long-time resident of the far North Shore of Kauai. I am writing to you on my behalf as well as others in the community who are copied on this correspondence.
As you know, our community was very hard hit during last April’s historic floods. The most devastating effect for the community at large was the loss of portions of Kuhio Highway owing to major landslides that literally sent portions of the road down into the ocean.
Recently we were informed by state and local officials at a community meeting that the highway will be re-opened on May 1 even though the repairs are not complete (there are several sections where there is still only one lane) because the federal government has told the state that if it does not open by May 1 they will take back the $80 million in federal funding we received as part of disaster relief for the express purpose of repairing and restoring the highway. Many of us in the community find this hard to believe.
We are concerned that, if true, the state is rushing to open the road even though repairs are not complete just to avoid losing these funds. Can you tell us if this is true?
We need a real answer, and we are coming to you because we trust you. If it is true we respectfully request a 30-60 day extension so that repairs can be completed and our safety can be assured.
If it is not the case that these funds are in jeopardy if the road is not ready to be re-opened by May 1st we would like to know that as well. We are enormously concerned for the safety of our community residents and others who will use the highway when it is re-opened.
We all want the road to re-open, but not until we have two lanes all the way from Wainiha to Waikoko and engineering experts have certified that the road is safe. We would also like to know which government agency will be responsible for certifying the safety issues — will it be a federal or state agency?
Also, three single-lane bridges in Hanalei are still under repair, and we have been told that those repairs will not be completed by May 1.
That means that there will be a need for flagmen at the bridges as well as at several points on the highway to direct alternating traffic in those areas. This is a grave concern for local residents due to the high potential for significant traffic back-ups that will disproportionately affect those needing to get to work, get their children to school in Hanalei, go to medical appointments, etc.
We are asking for your help, and thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.
Cyndy Johnson is a resident of Wainiha.