With some drivers reporting slowdowns of 15 to 45 minutes on Honoapiilani Highway near Lahaina Civic Center, Maui County has made changes in traffic control plans as work continues on a wastewater force main replacement project.
Since July 5, some lanes of the highway have been closed for a portion of the project that involves constructing 750 feet of force main under the highway. According to Maui County, the original plan called for the work affecting the highway to take eight days, with typical construction methods allowing 100 feet of force main to be constructed daily.
But the schedule has changed because of large boulders found under the highway, slowing construction speed to about 40 feet of force main per day, the county reported. Work on the portion under the highway is now expected to continue until Aug. 1.
Kaanapali-bound traffic stacks up on Honoapiilani Highway before the Lahaina Civic Center on Wednesday afternoon. Since July 5, some lanes have been closed for a portion of the project that involves constructing 750 feet of force main under the highway. Maui County officials said the original plan called for the work affecting the highway to take eight days, but boulders under the highway have slowed the work.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
"Our engineers are doing their best to address the unforeseen situation with the boulders, and we apologize for any delays," said Maui County spokesman Rod Antone. "This is an important project, and we thank the public for their patience. Hopefully adding an alternate route and adjusting the lanes of traffic provides some immediate relief for motorists."
Since Tuesday, two lanes of southbound traffic have remained open while one northbound lane is open with the option of detouring excess northbound traffic onto Lahaina Civic Center Drive. On Wednesday, traffic officers were added to manually operate the traffic light at Lahaina Civic Center to minimize the waiting time at the intersection. The county reported the changes were made in response to traffic delays and said delays have been "significantly shorter" since changes in traffic control plans were implemented.
On Monday morning, a Kapalua resident heading to Central Maui for a medical appointment reported it took 32 minutes to drive "maybe a mile" from the Fairway Shops at Kaanapali to the Lahaina Post Office. On Wednesday afternoon while returning to Kapalua from another doctor's appointment, the resident said he was stuck in traffic on the highway halfway between the Lahaina Public Library and Five Palms Restaurant.
He wondered why work wasn't being done at night instead of from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Night work isn't permitted, said Juan Rivera of the Design and Construction Section of the county Department of Environmental Management Wastewater Reclamation Division. He said the county didn't seek a noise variance from the Department of Health because of nearby residential areas in Wahikuli and the Villages of Leiali'i.
"Even if it had been possible to obtain a noise variance, the county feels that traffic disruptions are more tolerable than disrupting the sleep of the residents near the project," Rivera said.
In addition to building a new 20-inch force main to replace the existing aging force main, the $5 million project includes a new paved pedestrian walkway along the shoreline extending the length of Wahikuli and Hanakaoo beach parks. The project starts about 0.2 mile north of the highway intersection with Front Street and ends about 0.1 mile north of the golf cart bridge at Ka'anapali Golf Course.
Most of the project is on park and golf course land. Exceptions are the tie-in at the south end, where the new force main will be connected to the existing system, which lies under the makai lane of the highway; the 750 feet under construction now by the Lahaina Civic Center; and the tie-in to the existing gravity system by the Ka'anapali Golf Course, where the force main is to be connected to an existing manhole under the highway.
Rivera said the 750 feet currently under construction had to be built under the highway "because of the severely eroded shoreline, which could prematurely compromise the force main before the end of its predicted 75-year life span."
Overall construction began May 16 and may take up to one year.
The county said the existing force main, built in 1976, is nearing the end of its useful life, citing two major ruptures in recent years.
On Feb. 8, 2007, about 687,500 gallons of raw sewage spilled when the line broke near Wahikuli Beach Park. Another break on Aug. 15 didn't cause a spill reaching the ocean, but Wahikuli residents were disrupted by noise as crews worked overnight to fix the line, the county reported.
The Lahaina Wastewater Pump Station No. 3 carries about 1.2 million gallons of raw sewage, servicing the Lahaina area from Puamana to the Lahaina Civic Center. The sewage is transported to the pump station near Kaanapali Parkway before reaching the Lahaina Wastewater Reclamation Facility.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.