Update On Kauai North Shore Road Closures - May 11, 2019
Update as of May 11, 2019: "As a result of shifting resources to this project (emergency slope stabilization on Kuhio Highway at mile marker 1, the hill approaching Hanalei Bridge), HDOT is targeting Thursday, June 13 for the full opening of Kuhio Highway past Waipa Bridge." For the full update, go to Hawaii Department of Transportation.
The latest news regarding the Kauai road opening was in today's Garden Island Newspaper. As many of you know, the road west of Hanalei Bay to Ke'e has been closed since the April 2018 Kauai flood. Many people, residents and guests, have been anxiously awaiting its reopening. Lumahai Beach, Tunnels, Ke'e and the Kalalau Trail have been closed off for over a year to all except the people who live in Wainiha and Haena. A convoy schedule has been in effect for these residents.
But, before you get too excited, the announcement that there will be a tentative reopening on or about June 13th is not all that it seems. The repairs to numerous landslide and road collapse areas as a result of the 2018 flood will be largely complete by that date. Due to a landslide last Saturday at mile marker 1, however, the Lihue-bound lane coming up from Hanalei to Princeville will remain closed for 4 to 5 months causing delays going to and from Hanalei as workers try to stabilize the hillside. The continuing restrictions will make actually using the highway challenging for both residents and visitors.
- During the slope stabilization at mile marker 1, there will be intermittent closure of the road in both directions for 30 to 45 minute periods during rock-scaling operations on May 14 between 7:00 and 4:00. Additional rock-scaling work may be needed after May 14.
- Traffic will be flagged, 24 hours a day, at mile marker 1, alternating between Lihue-bound and Hanalei-bound traffic using one lane.
- The checkpoint at the northwest end of Hanalei Bay that has existed throughout the convoy system's duration will remain operational. Staff may discourage tourists from continuing, even after June 13th, but they will not prohibit anyone from using the road.
- Heavy traffic congestion is anticipated as work on three single-lane bridges (separate from the highway repairs) between Hanalei and Haena will continue. The Department of Transportation will have flagged access through each of the three worksites and a flier will be distributed to tourists warning in large black letters: EXPECT SIGNIFICANT TRAFFIC DELAYS.
- Haena State Park, including Ke'e Beach and the Kalalau Trail, will remain closed entirely as the completion of reconstruction takes place which will eventually cut the number of visitors allowed to go there from 2,000 to 900 each day. A newly rebuilt parking lot, with a capacity limited to 100 cars with spots available to tourists by reservation only, will open after road completion.
- Limahuli Garden will remain closed until further notice, with parking prohibited.
- Illegal parking anywhere within the no parking zone will incur a $200 parking fine as a minimum penalty.
You might be asking yourself, along with the DOT workers and residents of Wainiha and Haena, why is the Kauai road opening happening before the area is fully able to handle the influx of people? The answer lies in the funding. The majority of the monies used for this project came from the federal government. Once the work is done, the road is deemed safe, and officially reopens, full public access must be permitted.
A shuttle service, planned by the nonprofit, Hanalei Initiative, is scheduled to start operating between Waipa (west of Hanalei) and Ke'e Beach once the road is opened. Eventually, the Waipa parking lot will be replaced with a permanent park-and-ride lot near the Foodland store in Princeville. Shuttle tickets will be $11 for tourists and $2 for locals. This will hopefully alleviate some of the traffic congestion and parking frustration. No one wants to go back to the way it was before the 2018 flood. It is not a perfect plan, but it is a start at managing the enormous number of people who want to see the north end of Kauai. Can you blame them?
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