Goode heading to Kaupo to hear about the impacts of bridge closure
Residents seeking access while Waiopai Bridge repairs are ongoing
Department of Public Works Director David Goode will appear at the Kaupo Community Association meeting Saturday morning to hear residents’ complaints about road projects, especially the Waiopai Bridge repair project that will completely cut off the main Kanaio access to the southeast Maui community during the three-week work period.
The meeting will be held at 10 a.m. at the Kaupo School. Two Piilani Highway repair projects will be discussed — slope repairs at Nuanualoa at Milepost 37 and the Waiopai Bridge repair at Mileposts 28 and 29.
The Nuanualoa work is first up and slated to begin Monday, the county Public Works Department has told the association. The $2 million project will repair slippage and erosion problems and include drilling into the slope to provide firm concrete support for Piilani Highway, the association news release said.
The project, which will take six months, originally was slated to begin in October, but contractor Hawaiian Dredging decided to postpone work until January due to the potential for wet weather between November and mid-January, according to county communications with the association.
The work will force the closure of Piilani Highway weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., the association said. The road will be open to residents at night and early morning and when weather or project conditions prevent work. County officials said they will send out email notices should the road be open on expected work days.
“As long as people know, it’s an inconvenience,” association board member Jonathan Starr said earlier this week about the Nuanualoa work and road closures.
The Waiopai Bridge repair with its complete road closure is another matter, Starr said. “It is a major issue,” he said.
Built in 1982, the existing bridge needs structural repairs and replacement of the bridge deck, railings and guardrails, the county has said. The approach guardrails and posts were found to be severely corroded, and the bridge parapets have defects along the entire length.
The top surface of the concrete deck is in poor condition with patches, delamination and spalls over more than 60 percent of the deck area with cracking present in the structure.
About $1.5 million has been allotted for the repair project that will completely shut down Piilani Highway at the bridge. Kaupo and Kipahulu residents would not be able to get through from the Kanaio side of the highway and would have to go through Hana to reach Central Maui.
The road closure is expected to last three weeks, and the county will be imposing performance penalties to ensure timely work, said Goode on Tuesday. He was hoping to begin work in the summer with bids to go out soon.
“I don’t think for most people in Kaupo and Kipahulu communities that it is considered an option to drive around,” said Starr.
It’s not a matter of the driving time — about an hour longer — but the closures and traffic congestion, he said. Hana Highway is often closed due to landslides and debris on the road and crossing bridges can be frustrating with slow-moving or stopped tourist vans.
“It is nightmarish to get from Kaupo to Kahului on Hana Highway,” said Starr. “Local residents don’t think of it as an option.”
He said residents would likely consider staying with relatives in town. “It is really disruptive,” he said.
Residents have proposed alternatives to closing access, including grading an access makai of the bridge – which has been done in the past – that is open to four-wheel-drive vehicles only for an hour twice a day and establishing an access mauka of the bridge. Other options include running a shuttle bus several times a day for residents or even ferrying residents on quads through the work area.
Those alternatives have been shot down by the county due to the time required to obtain permits, liability and added cost.
J. Scott Meidell, senior vice president of Haleakala Ranch, said Wednesday that there is no access point mauka of the bridge, but the ranch has made land makai of the bridge available to the county.
Meidell said he reiterated the ranch’s offer to Goode a couple of weeks ago and has received no definitive feedback.
Starr said the association is acting now before the bids go out to try to change the project’s specs to allow some access. The association also wanted the opportunity to seek additional funds during the upcoming budget deliberations, which will begin soon, for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Goode said he is going out to Kaupo “to work together to do what we can.”
“I understand it is a hardship,” he said. “I’d like to understand them more to see how we can mitigate them.
“We only have so much money to go around. That’s why I’d like to understand what they need over there.”
Goode left open the option of seeking more funds for the project.
The reality for residents of southeast Maui, however, is that it “is a really tough community” to provide “continuous access at all times” with natural disasters.
“There are going to be times when folks . . . will be inconvenienced,” Goode said.
Starr lauded the public works director for coming out to the remote community for the meeting, noting that this could be “a model for how community and government should work together to find solutions.”
He said he believes Goode may be wanting to build an argument if he wants to seek more funding.
“We are trying to build a community,” said Starr. “Families are coming back to Kaupo. . . . This would really just be a big obstacle.”
Residents also can email Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org with comment. A potluck will be held after the meeting.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.