The lone road to the farthest reaches of Kauai’s North Shore, ravaged by an epic mid-April storm, is not expected to reopen to normal vehicular traffic until late May.
Transportation officials had originally planned to reopen the road on May 1. But on April 30 the Department of Transportation changed course, delaying the newly repaired road’s public debut after officials identified safety concerns on the road near Waikoko Bridge.
“Based on these concerns, Kuhio Highway will not be reopened until the work at the bridge progresses sufficiently to ensure the safety of the traveling public and our workers,” reads a press release from the DOT. “Weather permitting, HDOT now anticipates the safety concerns will be resolved and the full opening Kuhio Highway will occur the week of May 20.”
More than a year after a national record-setting storm dumped 49.7 inches of rain in 24 hours, the communities of Wainiha and Haena continue to be closed off to the public as repairs continue along a two-mile stretch of Kuhio Highway that was badly damaged by more than a dozen landslides. Access into these remote communities has been limited to residents and workers only.
State transportation officials have set a short-term goal to make the road as resilient as possible for the next 20 to 30 years. But with the threat of sea level rise and coastal erosion increasing, the only way to ensure the historic highway’s long-term survival is to relocate it by tunneling into the mountain or some other feat of engineering.
This stretch of highway, particularly the segment along Waikoko Beach, has already been identified as a vulnerable road in the state’s forthcoming $15 billion plan to protect the state’s low-lying coastal highways from the effects of climate change — namely a rising ocean.
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