POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 01, 2012
Drivers beware: All freeway ramps to and from Aiea will be closed tonight through early Friday so crews can reattach a 5-ton, 35-foot-long section of a pedestrian overpass sheared off by an oversize load on a truck trailer last month.
While the closure is not during peak travel times, officials are still warning drivers to plan — and prepare for heavy traffic.
"It's a big closure," said Caroline Sluyter, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation.
The good news is officials don't believe they'll need another major closure to complete the overpass reconstruction work. The closure today begins at 9 p.m. and runs through 4 a.m. Friday.
Two exits to Aiea on the H-1 freeway will be closed, along with all ramps to and from Aiea on Moanalua Freeway.
On Friday and Saturday crews will close Moanalua Road at Aiea Elementary School to install steel railings and do other work.
Other intermittent closures may be needed.
The overpass is primarily used by Aiea Elementary schoolchildren and, when there are football games at Aloha Stadium, by hundreds of fans who park at the school and in the neighboring community.
The DOT hopes to reopen the overpass by Nov. 6.
That's in time for the Nov. 10 University of Hawaii football game at Aloha Stadium against Boise State.
Aiea Elementary School Principal Kate O'Malley said about 30 of her students use the overpass daily.
They have had to be bused to school and back home again since Oct. 18, when a forklift being hauled by a Tibbits Trucking dump truck slammed into the pedestrian bridge.
The incident occurred shortly before school let out.
The 5-ton segment landed on the truck trailer, cushioning its fall, so it was able to be reused, Sluyter said.
During the closure tonight, crews will use a crane to lift the segment back into place and then will secure it using reinforcements.
Sluyter said the operation is "going to take some skill."
She added, "We just want to reassure the public that our bridge engineers did inspect it and found that it was structurally sound."
The initial estimate for the reconstruction work was between $200,000 and $300,000.
Tibbits Trucking will have to cover the cost of repairs, and also faces a fine for failing to obtain a permit to haul an oversize load.
Bill Clark, chairman of the Aiea Neighborhood Board, said he's thankful the closure tonight will wrap up at 4 a.m. Friday.
While he expects the work is "going to cause some problems" for those on the road, he doesn't anticipate a major traffic jam.
Meanwhile, football fans hope the reopening of the overpass is on schedule so it will be available Nov. 10.
About 200 members of Na Koa Football Club park at Aiea Elementary use the overpass when there are football games at the stadium.
Dozens more fans park in the surrounding community.
The overpass "takes you directly into the stadium," said Joyce Lau, membership and events coordinator at Na Koa.
The club charges members $150 a season to park at Aiea Elementary, which receives rental fees for use of school property.