The atmosphere is almostBy Jaymes K. Song
festive as the first drivers go
across the temporary,
Smiles, waves and thank-yous greeted state Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida as a bypass roadway at Waimea Bay was opened to the public this morning.
The 1,022-foot roadway was built this week after a rockslide on March 6 led to closure of the highway in the area, cutting off the connection between Haleiwa and Sunset Beach.
"Sorry I called you stupid," said one woman said to Hayashida as she completed crossing it.
Wilfredo Peralta of Makaha was the first to drive across. He arrived at 4:50 a.m., and others lined up behind him. The roadway opened at 6:25 a.m., about an hour and a half earlier than announced.
Peralta said the roadway will save him half the time of detouring on the H-3 Freeway. When asked to describe the bypass, he responded, "Solid."
Hayashida said the road felt very good. It cost about a half million dollars to install, and will cost another quarter million dollars to remove once a permanent road in built.
"I think people should be a lot more happy," he said.
The surf was calm this morning, but Hayashida expects waves to rise on Monday. He said the state will monitor the situation closely, and if waves cause any damage to the roadway, it will be closed.
The bypass was tested at 5 a.m. by several state vehicles and an 18-passenger van. Hayashida said even some semi trucks used in its construction have driven across, although it has a weight limit of four tons and is restricted to cars, sport-utility vehicles, pickup trucks, vans and motorcycles.
The speed limit is 5 mph, and it takes about two minutes to cross. A later opening was announced to give crews time to work if anything went wrong, Hayashida said.
"Although it's not a road you can travel at normal speed, it does make a connection," Hayashida said. "It allows families to take their children to school and tourists to drive around, which will maybe allow business to pick up."
He said options for the hillside where rocks fell are still being considered and a plan should be in place by next week.
One option is to move the highway away from the hillside and closer to the ocean, but essentially following the same route, he said.
"Right now anything that falls will fall on the pavement," Hayashida said.
The scene this morning was almost festive. Passengers held video cameras, people honked their horns, and some came on foot just to watch under the cool, slightly overcast sky.
Police directed traffic, and will be on 24-hour duty. After the initial surge of vehicles from both sides, traffic was light.
Some people drove back and forth, including Brian Kilmer of Sunset Beach. Kilmer woke this morning to get some coffee and saw that the road was open.
"So I gave it a whirl," he said. "I think it's good. It's about time, but I hope it doesn't wash away." No pedestrians or bicycles are allowed to use the roadway, but Leroy Pao of Sunset Beach was able to ride his red bicycle across.
He said police let him through because the traffic was so light.
"Its very smooth," he said. "I'm very surprised. After the rockslide there was no response (from the state). We were like in the dark. Just studies and this and that."
Pao was pleased at how fast it was built and shook Hayashida's hand when he finished crossing the two-lane roadway, which is topped with crushed coral.
"I give it an A-minus, but if it can withstand the waves, I'll give it an A," he said.
State Rep. Alex Santiago said the situation caused by the rockslide "was frustrating in the first week but everybody has been patient and this will bring a closer and stronger community."