Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Hana road repairs add
insult to economic injury

Already suffering from a slump
in tourism, East Maui businesses
face a scary Christmas

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Some residents in rural Hana are facing the prospect of deeper pay cuts as the state begins to close the major road leading to the town for repairs through most of the holiday season.

Hana business owners say they have already suffered double-digit decreases in revenue from slumping tourism because of an outbreak of dengue fever in East Maui and the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the East Coast.

"What else do you want? I understand the road needs to be fixed, but it's not good for the businesses if they don't let people through," said Cherie Hanchett, owners of Tutu's food concession at Hana Bay. "That's really junk."

With its winding route through tropical forests over scores of bridges, Hana Highway serves as a major visitor attraction on the Valley Isle.

Under the plan, at least one of the two lanes on Hana Highway will be closed during road repairs Mondays through Fridays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. The road will be completely closed from 6 to 8:30 a.m. and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

State officials say the road closures may extend through March of next year. The project is scheduled to be completed by July.

Public meetings to discuss the road closures were held in March in Hana, Keanae and Paia.

The state said the $2.5 million contract, awarded to Kiewit Pacific Co., calls for a variety of work, including stabilizing shoulders, improving drainage and installing guardrails at five different locations from Waikamoi to Wailua.

Aron Oshio, a Kiewit manager, said his company will try as much as possible to keep the roads open, but there will be periods when the road will need to be completely closed.

He said the company planned to begin closing at least one lane of the road today.

State highway official Athan Adachi said the work was being done at one location at a time because the contractor had one specialized drill that needed to be used for each excavation.

Hanchett said her business is at least 20 percent down from last year, and the road closures will prevent some casual travelers from getting to Hana. She said she may have to cut back working hours for some employees.

Guy Aina, owner of Hana Maui Vacation Rentals, said his business is down by 30 percent this year.

Harry Hasegawa of Hasegawa General Store said he travels the road twice a week and knows the highway needs to be repaired.

"As hard as it is, we got to do it," he said.

Hasegawa said if there are wage cuts to be made in the business, he will be the first to take a pay reduction.

On the road to Hana

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