Nearly one in four bridges in Maui County is structurally deficient and in need of significant repairs or replacement, according to a recent study by Transportation for America.
The national study released Wednesday found that 38 of Maui's 163 bridges are structurally deficient according to Federal Highway Administration standards. Most of the deficient bridges were in East Maui along the Hana and Piilani highways.
Maui County has the highest percentage of deficient bridges in the state - 23.3 percent. Kauai County was second worst with 23.1 percent, followed by Hawaii County with 18.1 percent and Honolulu County with only 7.8 percent.
This concrete bridge on South Kihei Road near Kaonoulu Street not only shows a lot of wear, but its channel to the ocean is blocked by sand dunes. The bridge has been deemed structurally deficient and in need of significant repair or replacement, according to a recent study by Transportation for America. This photo was taken Thursday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The Kaohu Street bridge near Iao Intermediate School made the list of bridges deemed structurally deficient and in need of significant repair or replacement in a recent Transportation for America report. This photo was taken Thursday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
As a whole, Hawaii ranked 15th among states in the nation with the most deficient bridges, with an average of 13.3 percent. About 11 percent of all U.S. highway bridges are structurally deficient, with the worst states being Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Iowa, according to Federal Highway Administration standards cited in the study.
The collapse of a Washington state bridge last month brought the problem into focus. The failure of a bridge over the Skagit River on May 24 sent cars falling into the river and cut off a main artery between the state and Canada.
The repaired bridge on Interstate 5, 60 miles north of Seattle, reopened Wednesday.
Over the last few years, Maui County has been working to keep its bridges up to date, especially in the Hana area, according to county officials.
"Most of our county-owned bridges that are deficient are out in Hana towards Kipahulu," Department of Public Works Director David Goode said. "While there is a problem, we are aware of them, and we've been funding bridge replacement projects . . . as funds become available as granted by the (Maui County) Council."
Three years ago, the county replaced Paihi Bridge, which had been closed for years after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake in 2006 destroyed a number of East Maui bridges.
The county's most recent bridge replacement project is Waiohonu Bridge at around the 48-mile marker, which was built in 1915. Goode said that the project will be completed by the end of the month.
On average, the county replaces one county-owned bridge per year in East Maui, Goode said.
The state owns 98 of Maui's 163 bridges, and those roadways are inspected every two years, according to Caroline Sluyter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
None of the state-owned bridges currently pose any immediate hazard to motorists, she said in an email.
She added that several projects are underway "to modernize older bridges to meet modern construction and safety standards." Among those is the rehabilitation of the Iao Stream Bridge on Waiehu Beach Road, which was built in 1953.
Sluyter said that the project, estimated to cost $7.2 million, is scheduled to begin construction this fall.
Transportation officials are working on a preservation plan to prioritize bridge upgrades in the Hana Highway Historic District, according to Sluyter.
Last month, Gov. Neil Abercrombie released $21.8 million for airports and highway improvements, including $395,000 for a statewide bridge inspection and appraisal program.
Most bridges are designed to last 50 years before major overhaul or replacement, according to the national study. After 65 years, a bridge is very likely to be structurally deficient.
Some bridges in Maui are more than 100 years old.
As the study explains, "structurally deficient" bridges are not necessarily unsafe, but such bridges require "significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement" and should be inspected every year.
Fortunately, most of the bridges on Maui that are deemed deficient are not heavily used. On average, fewer than 50,000 cars per day travel on deficient bridges in Maui County. On Oahu, more than 1.5 million cars travel per day on bridges deemed structurally deficient, according to the report.
Other structurally deficient bridges in Maui include one in Kihei along South Kihei Road, one in Wailuku along Kaohu Street and two in Haiku, along Haiku and Peahi roads.
For a map of all 38 deficient bridges in Maui County, visit www.t4america.org/resources/bridges.
Transportation for America is a coalition of groups, including governmental entities, that advocates for legislation to improve transportation infrastructure in the U.S.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.