LIHUE — Rumors are on the rise that Kuhio Highway won’t be opening on Wednesday.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation didn’t confirm with The Garden Island before press time or answer any questions about the project, but several anonymous sources close to the situation said Monday the highway reopening will be delayed.
On social media, Trisha Keahaulani Watson-Sproat, community liaison between Wainiha and HDOT, confirmed the news.
“I know everyone has been eagerly awaiting for an announcement about the road opening, that date being as soon as May 1,” she wrote Monday afternoon on Facebook. “As I said, the state was carefully considering all the concerns, being expressed by the community, and as many of you know, state officials toured the road today.
“The road opening has been pushed to a later date. We are still putting together an announcement about the details. The official announcement will be sent out by HDOT shortly.”
Wainiha resident Elsa Flores Almaraz was thrilled when she heard the rumor on Monday.
“I believe that my community and myself are extremely happy that the county and the state listened to our concerns and have our best interests, our safety and the safety of our visitors as a priority,” she said.
Kuhio Highway from Waipa north has been closed to traffic, except to residents who are traveling via convoy through the construction, since April 2018’s floods triggered landslides and damaged the road. HDOT has delayed the opening of Kuhio Highway a few times but announced a target of May 1 earlier this year.
The deadline was issued at the same time as an HDOT announcement that state parks and Limahuli Garden would remain closed until June, causing concern from residents. They pointed out that without facilities and parking lots, people would be traveling to a dead end on the North Shore.
Concerns about parking abound as well, specifically the question of how to keep people from parking on side streets and private property while keeping access for residents.
Meanwhile, HDOT has remained silent on the point. The cost to repair the road was $77 million and much of that funding came from the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program.
Almaraz pointed out the current and forecasted weather will test the work that’s been done to repair Kuhio Highway.
“Have you seen the photo of the mayor and officials out there from today?” Almaraz said Monday, referring to a photo taken by a Wainiha resident that showed Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami, Larry Dill with HDOT and other officials “stuck” on the Hanalei side of Manoa Stream.
In the photo, the stream is flooded and vehicles can’t pass through. “This weather will test what they’ve done and it needs to be tested,” Almarez said.
Others confirmed they suspect more flooding may have something to do with the delay on opening Kuhio Highway.
Jessica Else, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0452 or firstname.lastname@example.org.