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Limited access to Kauai’s Kuhio Highway begins today


    Workers repair damage to Kauai’s Kuhio Highway near Waikoko.

A single-lane, 2-mile stretch of Kuhio Highway will begin opening to local traffic during limited hours starting today, Kauai County and state Department of Transportation officials announced Thursday.

The portion of Kuhio Highway between Waikoko and Wainiha will be accessible to Wainiha and Haena residents between 6 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., conditions permitting, Deputy Transportation Director Ed Sniffen said.

Heavy rainfall and flooding on April 13-14 caused at least a dozen landslides that deposited mud, rocks, vegetation and other debris onto this portion of the road, making it impassable. There were also about 20 “slope stability issues” in the area, Sniffen said.

Emergency personnel have had one-lane access to the section of highway since Saturday.

“But we totally understood that the public needed the access through that area, so we tried to expedite that as much as possible,” Sniffen said.

Larry Dill, DOT Kauahi district engineer, said safety was the agency’s chief concern. To restore limited access to the highway, workers had to stabilize the road to ensure 5-ton vehicles could travel safely through, he said.

Under normal circumstances about 3,000 vehicles travel the stretch road daily, Sniffen said. Restricting access to area residents will likely result in about 1,000 vehicles, he added.

“Just getting the one lane open is very significant for them because they have been isolated from the rest of the island ever since this event began April 14,” Dill said. “A lot of their livelihoods depend on getting in and out of the area, so we’re doing what we can to move as fast as we can, but we want to make sure things are safe.”

North Shore motorists seeking access to the route should check their vehicle registration cards to determine the weights of their sedans, SUVs and pickups. All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and utility task vehicles (UTVs) will not be permitted. Those permitted through must also follow a slower, 15-mph speed limit, and in some areas, as slow as 5 miles an hour.

Placards are being issued to Wainiha and Haena residents only. To receive one, residents must take their vehicles and proof of residency to Kauai County Planning Director Mike Dahilig at the Kauai County office at the Hanalei Colony Resort between 9-11 a.m. and 1:30-5:30 p.m. today.

Insurance adjusters, utility company workers, private contractors and others needing access to the northern communities need to coordinate with the Kauai Emergency Management Agency at 241-1800.

The one-lane access will be available daily starting today:

>> 6 a.m.: Waikoko to Wainiha

>> 6:30 a.m.: Wainiha to Waikoko, including shuttle

>> Noon: Waikoko to Wainiha, including shuttle

>> 12:20 p.m.: Wainiha to Waikoko

>> 12:40 p.m.: Waikoko to Wainiha

>> 1 p.m.: Wainiha to Waikoko, including shuttle

>> 6 p.m.: Wainiha to Waikoko

>> 6:30 p.m.: Waikoko to Wainiha, including shuttle

Work to completely restore the highway is expected to finish in three to four months and to cost nearly $40 million, almost all of which will likely come from federal sources, Sniffen said.

The work will include replacing three bridges — Waioli, Waipa and Waikoko — so that they can handle vehicles loads of up to 25 tons.

The Federal Highway Administration sped through $8 million in “quick release funding” dollars to ensure there was cash to carve out the limited-access path, Sniffen said. Federal authorities also expedited federal permits.

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