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$3 million federal grant to help replace Kaupakalua Bridge

Structure was washed out in March, forcing residents to drive farther for services

The damaged Kaupakalua Bridge is shown in Haiku after massive flooding wiped it out in March. Nearly $3 million in federal funds will go toward replacing the bridge, the state announced Wednesday. HI-EMA photos

The Maui News

A nearly $3 million federal grant will help replace the Kaupakalua Bridge that was wiped out during catastrophic flooding in Haiku in March, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday.

The bridge project will bring relief to more than 200 rural residents in and around Haiku, saving them extra driving miles and bringing them closer to vital services, the agency said.

Kaupakalua Bridge was one of several roads and structures that flooded during heavy rainfall in the spring. On March 8, storms eroded an existing drainage channel upstream of the bridge, causing it to wash away.

Built around 1911, the two-lane timber bridge connected roughly 200 residents in the area to services such as shopping, gas stations and medical care, the agency said. With the bridge gone, residents in some 64 homes have had to travel 4 to 5 miles farther to access the same services. Ambulances, fire equipment and other responders also had to travel the longer routes to provide help in an emergency.

Although residents were not completely cut off, a few minutes can make all the difference in emergency response in a rural community, said Daniel Trexler, project specialist with the agency.

Maui County spokesperson Brian Perry called the bridge “an important link between communities in Haiku.”

To restore that link, the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Monday awarded more than $2.9 million to rebuild the bridge to its pre-disaster function and capacity. The grant was awarded as part of federal disaster declaration for the March flooding in Maui, which damaged bridges, roads and homes and overtopped Kaupakalua Dam.

Nine county roads, bridges and other structures in Haiku, Kula, Kaupo, Makena, Polipoli and Kahului sustained damages, with repairs to the Kaupakalua Bridge expected to cost the most at $3 million, the county Public Works Department said earlier this year.

The Maui County Council voted in April to use county emergency funding for the projects. However, in May, President Joe Biden approved disaster aid for Maui County that would provide 75 percent federal funding for about $8 million in damages sustained by the county. Perry said at the time that the federal funding would cover about $6 million, with the county covering the other 25 percent, about $2 million.

The Kaupakalua Bridge repair project will remove the existing concrete pier footing and restore the bridge deck and superstructure by installing a pre-engineered steel truss bridge that meets the standards for a 100-year flood event, according to HI-EMA.

The construction also will restore the east and west bridge approaches and add a retaining wall to match the new bridge deck elevation.

“HI-EMA would like to thank FEMA and the County of Maui for their efforts as the community continues to recover from the severe weather experienced last March,” Trexler said.

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