HANALEI — Business has been slower in Hanalei since the April 2018 floods, and periodic road closures along Kuhio Highway near the Hanalei Bridge haven’t helped.
It’s likely going to get worse.
Upcoming closures scheduled by the Hawaii Department of Transportation have some North Shore business leaders worried holiday shoppers will go elsewhere, which they say they can’t afford.
“As a small business owner in Hanalei, I was surprised to learn that this would happen during the busiest time of the winter,” said Mike McGinnis, who owns Divine Planet in Hanalei. “I’ve spoken to many others that share this concern.”
Half-hour full road closures are scheduled hourly from around 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. between Monday, Dec. 16 and Dec. 19, with work ending at noon on Wednesday, according to an HDOT press release that said, “all work is weather permitting.”
Slope stabilization has been ongoing along that stretch of the highway since May, when an HDOT assessment of the area concluded there was a need to stabilize the upper and lower slopes. Traffic has been mostly alternating through a single lane since then, causing delays and impacting some businesses.
During next week’s full road closures, a helicopter will be placing mesh above the highway, and McGinnis wonders if there isn’t a better time they could do that work.
“We have had the slowest three months in many years,” McGinnis said. “We lost access to Hanalei one full day and one partial day in November because the bridge was closed. We’ve had power outages and internet outages in October and November that further disrupted our businesses.”
McGinnis pointed out many business owners are “counting on Christmas” to recover sales from the last three months and that a road closure a week before the holiday is “almost the worst timing possible.”
Mike Ching, of Ching Young Village, said the whole shopping village has been hurt.
“Business is starting to come back, but it’s still not to the level it was in 2017, before the flood and the road closures,” Ching said. “We’re asking they postpone the closures for a week or two, until after New Year’s because we haven’t recovered.”
HDOT officials did not respond to The Garden Island’s inquiries on whether the closures could be rescheduled.
More closures, these ones after dark, are slated on the other side of Hanalei on those same dates. From Dec. 16-19, a full closure of the highway will block traffic on both sides between Wainiha and Haena from 7:30 p.m. to 5 a.m., and HDOT officials announced additional highway night closures for the week of Jan. 5-8.
“These will be full closures of the highway between Waioli Bridge in the vicinity of Anae Road and Waikoko Bridge south of Lumahai Beach,” the press release said. “No vehicles will be able to cross the bridge for the entire night work period.”
Shuttle service will be provided to Wainiha and Haena residents and authorized Transient Vacation Rental guests.