Residents express relief as single lane reopens
Work now begins on a temporary fence
Kimberly Plein was glad that the state opened a contra-flow lane yesterday as she and others went to her brother's wedding on the sands of Sunset Beach.
"It's huge for us," Plein said of the reopened highway. Plein, of San Diego, is staying in Haleiwa and would have had to walk past the rockslide at Waimea Bay and have someone pick her and others up to go to the wedding.
The state Department of Transportation opened the 24-hour contra-flow lane at noon, a day ahead of schedule.
ROCKSLIDE AREAS BEING MONITORED
State transportation officials are working with contractors to establish some surveying points along some critical rockslide hazard areas across the state to better monitor slope movement.
Officials hope to have the statewide hazard mitigation study finished by the end of the year.
Deputy Transportation Director Brennon Morioka said it is an ongoing process for officials to assess rockslide hazard sites as changes in the weather occur and unpredictable events arise. "Our study of the rockfall program is a living document. It needs to always be monitored and updated," Morioka said.
The rockfall on Kamehameha Highway between Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church and the Waimea Valley Audubon Center early Saturday partially blocked the roadway.
On Monday and Tuesday, the state set up a limited contra-flow lane during morning and afternoon peak hour traffic as contractors removed rocks and loose material from the steep, jagged cliffside.
Many North Shore residents and tourists faced long drives or walking across Waimea Bay Beach.
Some said they appreciated that the state had to act for the public's safety. It's a reminder that Mother Nature is more powerful than anything else, Plein said.
About 70 large truckloads of rocks and loose material were removed from the rock face. An archaeologist was at the site because of nearby burial caves, but no bones have been found, said state Transportation Director Barry Fukunaga. Material was taken to a baseyard in Waipio Gentry for screening to ensure no native Hawaiian bones were overlooked.
The 24-hour contra-flow lane, administered by police and contractors, will remain in effect for about two weeks while contractors install a temporary fence. About 70 feet of ring net mesh needs to be installed, along with new I-beams, concrete barriers and a street light pole that were damaged by the falling rock.
Net mesh material left over from fencing installed along Honoapiilani Highway in Maui following the earthquakes in October 2006 will be shipped to Oahu to be used for the temporary fence at Waimea Bay.
Both lanes of Kamehameha Highway will reopen once the temporary fence is installed, state transportation officials said. Officials then will shift their focus to the installation of a permanent fence, which will take several months, said Scott Ishikawa, state Department of Transportation spokesman. Contractors will be able to work behind the temporary fence to install a permanent one.
Transportation officials said the impact fence installed in 2000 did its job protecting people as well as the roadway. "We would rather have this fence get damaged than somebody getting hurt," Ishikawa said. "You can always replace the fence."
To alleviate the inconvenience to motorists, the state is temporarily suspending work on Kamehameha Highway near Crouching Lion Inn in Kaaawa until both lanes reopen at Waimea Bay. Traffic had been contra-flowed in that area to allow workers to replace guardrails.