CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Rudy Domingo prepared a loulu palm tree in the center divide of Kailua Road for removal yesterday in order to accommodate a temporary lane for Kailua-bound traffic. The Department of Transportation was forced to shut down the far right lane after landslides occurred during heavy rain on March 31.
State begins Kailua roadwork
Transportation officials say trees being removed along Kailua Road will be replanted
The state started constructing a temporary second lane of Kailua Road yesterday to ease traffic congestion caused when the threat of landslides forced the closure on one lane.
Workers from the Tree People uprooted about 25 loulu palm trees from the median on Kailua Road to make way for the second lane from St. John Lutheran Church to Hamakua Drive. The trees will be taken to Pua Lani Landscape Design in Waimanalo.
The Department of Transportation also is studying a design to prevent future landslides. On April 3, officials shut down the lane closest to the hillside on Kailua Road due to the threat of more landslides and overhanging rocks following the heavy rain in March.
Transportation officials have an agreement with the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle, which planted the trees several years ago, to replant them once the rockfall mitigation project is completed. They also agreed to work and cover costs for another landscaping project on another section of median.
"We can understand that something needs to be done about the traffic and getting the hillside stabilized. It's not something that's going to be done quickly," said Paula Ress, president of the Lani-Kailua Outdoor Circle.
Cost to construct a temporary second lane is estimated at $479,000, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman of the Department of Transportation.
Cost for the rockfall mitigation project is estimated at $4 million. Work is expected to start in August and last through February.
Once the project is completed, the Department of Transportation will replant the loulu palms that are being cared for at the nursery and rebuild the median. State transportation officials will also take on a $150,000 landscaping project to plant more loulu palms on another section of the median on Kailua Road.
Area businesses said it is about time that the state took action to reduce traffic congestion as motorists head into Kailua.
Traffic would start becoming heavy as early as 2:30 or 3 p.m., said Leslie Baker, senior salesclerk at Koolau Farmers Center, right before the hillside. "We have definitely been seeing a problem."
Baker said she noticed a 5 to 10 percent drop in business due to the traffic. "It hasn't been that bad," she said, noting that store hours were extended to increase revenue.
Work on the median by Royal Contracting Co. is expected to take two months, but officials hope to get it done sooner. "We'd like to get this done in the next two to four weeks," Ishikawa said, depending on the arrival of asphalt.