The National Park Service reinstalled a 30-foot, 4-ton bridge to the USS Arizona Memorial this week and today is putting back in place a zig-zag visitor ramp on a 105-foot floating concrete dock that serves as the disembarkation point for walk-on visits to the memorial.
The latest activity begs the question: When will the famous memorial, one of Hawaii’s most visited attractions, reopen to foot traffic?
The park service, which oversees the memorial, said it plans to issue a statement next week with a specific date.
A malfunction with the anchoring system for the concrete dock noticed in May 2018 resulted in the closure of the memorial for the past 15 months — much to the disappointment of the 4,000 to 5,000 people a day who normally take a short boat ride out to peer down and reflect on the sunken battleship and grave for over 900 men.
A total of 1,177 lives were lost on the Arizona in the surprise Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that brought America into World War II.
Twelve new synthetic straps were installed last month to anchor the boat landing dock as part of a more than $2.1 million fix.
Video of the bridge reinstallation posted to the park service’s Pearl Harbor National Memorial Facebook page created some optimism for returned access.
“Ohhhh how I hope this is ready by 9/15!!!. That’s when me and my family will be there!!” said Gloria Robinson Dearden.
Corky Pawling wrote that he and his wife had a “once-in-a-lifetime Hawaii trip” in April and were disappointed that the repairs had not been completed.
“I cannot think of any good reason why it took so long to make the repairs, but we are very happy to hear that the memorial will soon be open once again,” he said. “We should never forget and always be thankful for the sacrifices that many gave serving our country.”
Jay Blount, a park service spokesman, said one of the remaining tasks is a final walk-through and completion of a “punchlist” check of the repair job. The park service last month said it expected the memorial to reopen no later than October.
Access to the memorial was suspended in May 2018 when park staff noticed minor damage to the structure. Inspection of the dock revealed a failure of its anchoring system, which allowed too much lateral movement at the spot where passengers disembarked from Navy boats.
King tides in 2017 are believed to have dislodged heavy concrete blocks sunk into the sediment of Pearl Harbor and connected by chains to the dock.
Instead of risking a repeat, the park service went with a dozen big “helical” pilings that were screwed into the seafloor. Some were upward of 100 feet long, Blount said.
Blount previously said he fully understands the disappointment of those who haven’t able to step foot on the Arizona Memorial. Nearly 1.8 million people visited in 2018.
But he also said “there’s been no point since May 2018 when this happened that there’s not been work being conducted” on the sequential repairs that took place.
“It’s a very complicated process that involves many steps, and it’s not as simple as going out and conducting the work in a few months. It requires a lot of study. We have to follow federal acquisition regulation laws and procedures,” he said last month.
Kennedy/Jenks Consultants, GHD Ltd. and Silver Mountain Construction have worked on the project. The park service announced the award of a repair contract in March.
The park service said a project of this scope would normally take three to four years to plan and complete.