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Friday, March 10, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
The strain of last night's meeting at Sunset Beach Elementary School
was evident on the faces of state officials. Left to right, state
Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida, Highways Division
Administrator Pericles Manthos and state
Senator Robert Bunda (D-22nd).

Rock removal
work could
start Monday

A contractor is expected to be
hired today; the state promises
an open road soon

Questions about the closure

By Lori Tighe


Work could begin as early as Monday on removing unsafe rocks above a closed section of Kamehameha Highway.

The state expects to hire a contractor today for the job, state Transportation Director Kazu Hayashida told North Shore residents last night.

The state is considering cutting back the rock and covering it with concrete that looks like rock, or putting up a net.

"This is not going to be like any other state project," said Pericles Manthos, state highway administrator. "It's going to be done fast. Right now we're going to get rid of the loose rock and open the road."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
It was standing room only at the meeting at Sunset
Beach Elementary School last night. Residents
gathered to hear the latest on the road closure due
to the rockslide that has separated North
Shore communities.

In the meantime, a walkway has been put in place across Waimea Beach where thousands of people each day cross the sand to get around the roadblocks that have closed the only road between Haleiwa and the Sunset Beach/Pupukea area.

Other steps also are being taken to help North Shore residents:

Bullet Additional parking stalls may be set up in a grassy area of Waimea Beach Park that could be available as early as this weekend.
Bullet Floodlights will stay on the beach from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Bullet The state commuter van pool provider, Vanpool Hawaii, will loan vans to principals at Waialua, Sunset Beach and Haleiwa Elementary Schools, and Kahuku High School to shuttle teachers and students. The state is looking into vans for private schools.
Bullet Kahuku principal Lisa DeLong said that beginning next Wednesday, a new school bus service will help transport students who currently can't get to school.
Bullet A temporary road will be built on the beach when another 400 feet of steel planks arrive.

The state has ruled out using a military road above the rockslide as a detour because it is too rugged and unsafe.

At a community meeting last night in Sunset Beach, Hayashida said, "We're going to get the job done, so in 30 years you won't talk about us."

But he added, "This project is very risky." Originally he put the time frame to fix the road as "indefinite," taking anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

"The word indefinite is unacceptable," said resident Wendy Barnfield. "How about holding your wages until the road is opened."

Barnfield was one of at least 400 people who showed up at the Sunset Beach Elementary School cafeteria last night to hear what the state has been doing since a rockslide closed the highway early Monday morning.

Rockslide actions

These are some actions taken on the North Shore since the rockslide:

Bullet TheBus increased its shuttles between Pupukea and Turtle Bay. They run every half hour from 5:45 a.m. at Pupukea, and 6:10 a.m. from Turtle Bay. They end at 10:15 p.m. at Pupukea, and 11:10 p.m. at Turtle Bay.
Bullet Free parking is available to residents at Waimea Valley Adventure Park and Waimea Bay Beach Park on the Haleiwa side; and at St. Peter & Paul Mission on the Sunset Beach side.
Bullet Emergency services are available on both sides. Haleiwa residents should use Wahiawa General Hospital, and Kahuku residents should use Kahuku Hospital.
Bullet More information was expected to be posted today on a state Internet site:
Bullet The North Shore community liaison for state information is Robert Leinau, phone: 638-6702; fax: 638-7900; email:

Many people expressed anxiety about the effect of the highway shutdown on tourism. Business owners say they have seen a 40 to 90 percent loss in business.

"It is not an economic inconvenience, it's an economic catastrophe. We're talking millions of dollars," said Ken Newfield, member of the North Shore Neighborhood Board.

Many tourists don't want to visit the North Shore if they can't go around Oahu, said Barbara Williams, owner of Oceania, a Haleiwa clothing store.

"I'll probably lose my business in this, I won't be surprised," Williams said.

Rep. Alex Santiago (D, Pupukea) said he is discussing with the Hawaii Tourism Authority ways to keep the tour buses coming to the North Shore.

"We need a hotline. If this occurred in Waikiki, there would be a hotline. I just want to know my kid is safe," Williams said of her 11-year-old son who goes to school on the other side of the rockslide.

Robert Leinau, former manager of Waimea Falls Park, volunteered to be the North Shore liaison for information from the state. His number is 638-6702.

Police are increasing patrols near the road closure where people are leaving cars overnight. But they said so far there have been no increase in the amount of car break-ins or auto thefts this week.

"Security is a primary concern," police Capt. George McKeague, of the Wahiawa/North Shore patrol district, said. "Residents are parking their cars and walking across the sand to get home. No one is watching their cars overnight. So, we instructed officers to pay special attention to the cars."

"Let's face it, they're (the cars) vulnerable." Meanwhile, three to five officers have been assigned to be at the park and the roadblocks around the clock until the road is clear. The Honolulu Police Department is looking into adding another officer there as well.

The officers who patrol the Sunset Beach side of the North Shore has been reassigned to work out of the Kahuku police station instead of the Wahiawa station.

North Shore residents and tourists expressed their anger this week about police ticketing and towing their cars in a time of emergency.

Officers are trying to be as accommodating as possible and warning people instead of ticketing them, McKeague said. But if cars along Kamehameha Highway or in the parking lot are blocking the roadway, they will be ticketed or towed.

McKeague said clear roadways are crucial for fire engines, ambulances, life guards and emergency vehicles to get through.

Another service that's continuing is the U.S. Mail. Through snow, rain, gloom of night, and now rockslides, the U.S. Mail delivers, carrier Carma Hurwitz told the applauding crowd.

Hurwitz said she awakes at 4 a.m. in Pupukea, drives 64.3 miles to Haleiwa and loads the mail in her own car -- because the mail truck can't handle it. Then she returns back around the island to Pupukea to deliver it.

When she's done, she drops off the outgoing mail at Kahuku, and finally drives home. Her daily route is now 165 miles.

"Work on repairing the road sooner. They can," Hurwitz said. "I understand the need to be careful. But I'm a walking zombie at night. The last 20 minutes of the drive I nod off."

Wesley Almeida expressed concern for the heiau above the rockslide area.

"My ancestors took many years to build a heiau," he said. "It's very important to us. Can you find any alternate routes. Do you really have to blast a mountain? The place is spiritual."

One lonely dissenter, Gary Scherer, asked state officials if they could keep the road closed permanently. He wants to see the North Shore become an isolated enclave like Maui's Hana.

The crowd burst out laughing, then booed him.

"I'm satisfied you don't have stones in your pockets now," Scherer told them.

Reporters Jaymes K. Song and Crystal Kua contributed to this story.

Highway to be closed
a few weeks, at least

Frequently asked questions, answered by the Department of Transportation

Question: How long will the highway be closed?

Answer: At least for a few weeks, maybe longer, depending on the demolition techniques selected by the contractor.

B: Why can't one lane be opened?

A: Overhanging loose boulders, 4 to 5 feet wide, could injure or kill someone if they fell.

Q: Can you build a boulder catcher?

A: The boulders are too close to the highway and too large to be contained.

Q: Can you use cane haul roads for detours?

A: The agricultural roads on private lands are in poor condition and impassable.

Q: Why isn't the military helping?

A: The military is working with the state on the temporary beach access road.

Q: What is being done to help businesses affected by the highway closure?

A: The Chamber of Commerce and the Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau have been asked to let tourists know the North Shore remains open, and only a quarter-mile of highway past Waimea Falls Adventure Park is closed.

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