Access to Kauai’s north shore communities at the gateway to the popular Napali Coast State Wilderness Park and Kalalau Trail is expected to be restored May 1 when the state Department of Transportation reopens a stretch of Kuhio Highway that has been closed about a year.
Flooding April 14-15, 2018, which produced approximately 50 inches of rain in a 24-hour period and caused landslides, left a portion of Kuhio Highway with some 32 emergency repair sites. Ensuing road work cut off Kauai’s north shore beyond Waikoko from the rest of the island, closing Lumahai, Wainiha and Ha‘ena to most outsiders.
State DOT spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige confirmed today that DOT is “on schedule to complete the work necessary to return the route to better than pre-disaster conditions by May 1.”
Kunishige said DOT won’t reopen the public highway until ” paving, guardrail, and other safety features necessary for safe vehicular travel are in place. “
However, the public highway is slated to reopen before work is completed at the Waioli Stream Bridge, the Waipa Stream Bridge and the Waikoko Stream Bridge, she said.
“We will implement traffic control for the bridge rehabilitation and replacements as we do on similar construction projects statewide,” Kunishige said.
Some residents in the closed-off communities, tourism officials and environmentalists don’t want the highway to reopen before the bridge work is complete. Others, many of whom have lost revenue from the halt to the tourist trade, have been clamoring for reopening.
DOT is expected to update the community of its plans tonight at 6:30 p.m. during a public meeting at Opakapaka Grill and Bar at 5-7132 Kuhio Highway. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the County of Kauai also are slated to participate.
Kunishige said DOT understands the community’s concerns, but “cannot keep the route closed or limit access to motorists for reasons other than safety.”
“Continuing to restrict access after the emergency repairs to Kuhio Highway are completed could impact the eligibility of the repairs for the ( Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief) program that provided the majority of the $77 million in funding needed to repair the route,” she said.