An initial phase of the long-awaited Lahaina bypass should be ready by the end of 2012, Craig Okita, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. project superintendent, said Wednesday.
Drivers who want to avoid the intersection of Lahainaluna Road and Honoapiilani Highway soon will have a new opportunity to "bug out" and take the partially finished bypass, said Charlene Shibuya of the state Department of Transportation.
The first phase of the bypass mauka the highway is just under one mile out of a total of about nine miles planned to allow motorists to drive mauka of Lahaina town, she said. The bypass is expected eventually to run from about Launiupoko through Kaanapali and makai to the highway and Honokowai, she said.
Hawaiian Dredging workers build a network of reinforced steel for the top decking of a bridge over Kahoma Stream for its final concrete pour on Tuesday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The project is separate and not to be confused with the project to widen Honoapiilani and move a portion of it mauka, Shibuya said.
The bypass highway has been sought for years as another route parallel to Honoapiilani Highway that would reduce traffic congestion in Lahaina town.
"The very first phase (of the bypass) is a really big milestone, because people will tell you it's been on the books for 30 years," Shibuya said. "Soon people will be able to head north instead of going down Lahainaluna Road and go on their merry way. And they'll have some great views, too."
Bypass project construction began in 2009. It's difficult to say when the entire bypass will be completed or how much it will cost, Shibuya said.
So much depends on state and federal funding, she said. However, other phases are being studied, designed and plan-ned, and they have construction momentum on their side as well now, Shibuya said.
Progress also depends on political will, she said, and state Rep. Angus McKelvey, D-West Maui-north Kihei, said the project is imperative for public safety during an emergency such as a flood or brush fire, since the west side has no hospital or major airport or ferry.
McKelvey said he's been working with U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye to try and secure the entire nine miles' funding.
Shibuya said the first phase is estimated to cost about $77 million, but that includes two bridges, concrete roadways, utilities, streetlights and drainage as well as the new Keawe Street extension.
The first phase is a quicker outlet from a side road off Lahainaluna Road, which is a dead end packed with housing developments and three schools - Lahainaluna High School, Lahaina Intermediate School and Princess Nahienaena Elementary School.
So motorists soon can travel to and from Lahainaluna via Keawe Street adjacent to the Lahaina Gateway shopping center. The street intersects at Honoapiilani Highway, across from the entrance to the Lahaina Cannery Mall.
One of the bypass' major projects is a new 350-foot bridge over the Kahoma Stream. Its design includes inverted arches, Okita said.
When the bridge's 4,000-yard concrete pour is completed and dry, the supports underneath will be removed, Shibuya said. The stream is a flood control channel, so pillars otherwise could be susceptible to floating debris such as trees, she said.
"It is definitely one of our most difficult projects to date," Okita said. "And everything on this bridge needs to be perfect
. . . for us to proceed. Our team's done a great job, and I can't wait to get it over with."
* Chris Hamilton can be reached at chamilton@maui news.com.