Kauai road repairs await halt in rainfall
North shore traffic has had only one lane since the dam broke
The only highway connecting Kauai's north shore with the rest of the island could reopen both lanes as soon as this weekend -- "weather permitting," state Transportation Director Rod Haraga said yesterday.
Engineers have determined that repaving an 8-by-30-foot section of the two-lane Kuhio Highway damaged by the March 14 Ka Loko Dam break would be the first step to restoring two-way traffic, Haraga said at a media briefing.
Since reopening a day after the disaster that swept away two houses and seven people in floodwaters, the highway has had one-way, contraflowed traffic.
The ground under the highway is solid enough to handle car and light truck traffic on 11-foot-wide lanes instead of the former 12-foot lanes if traffic slows down to 25 mph from the former 35 mph, Haraga said.
For large trucks, police will stop traffic from both directions and allow the truck to pass using the middle of the road. "We don't want a heavy truck on the edge of the highway," Haraga said.
Haraga said the truck weight that would trigger such travel had not yet been determined, but would probably include 16- or 18-wheeled vehicles.
"This is great news," said Democratic state Rep. Hermina Morita, who represents north Kauai, by e-mail. "But we still need the weather to cooperate."
Dry weather will be needed to repave the damaged part of the road one night, then to install traffic lights and a highway divider on a second night, Haraga said. More rain could delay the project, he said.
Rain stopped the work from being done last night, state transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said. Each day, about 5 p.m., the department will assess whether conditions are dry enough for the short-term fix to begin, he said.
The state has hired James W. Glover Ltd. for the paving part of the project and Hawaiian Dredging to shore up support of the highway, Haraga said. The cost of the emergency work hasn't been determined, he said.
Haraga didn't have an estimate of how long it would take for a permanent fix, and a contractor has not been chosen. But he said the road would remain open in both directions other than the brief periods for heavy equipment.
In other flood-recovery news yesterday:
» Reports will be made public later this week on recent safety inspections of Kauai's 54 dams by a team of Army Corps of Engineers and state Department of Land and Natural Resources engineers, said Adjutant General Robert Lee and Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young.
After they are reviewed by Young and Lee, the inspections will be posted on the DLNR Web site, Young said. The department is responsible for safety inspections of dams, but hadn't inspected any between 2004 and the March 14 breach of the Ka Loko Dam.
Emergency inspections of Kauai dams were conducted last week.