KAHALUU (HawaiiNewsNow) – A clean-up crew using heavy machinery began removing more than 100-tons of mud and rocks from a hill above Kamehameha Highway in Kahaluu Thursday. It is a promising sign for area residents who have been frustrated since the highway was closed December 27.
"We're hoping that'll finalize the problems with the city and they'll have the road open soon," said Eric Merkel as he watched an excavator load boulders into a truck to be hauled away.
Persistent rain on December 27 caused the hill and a massive retaining wall along Kamehameha Highway to fall from private property on Lulani Street onto the highway. The highway was closed and has remained closed because the hill and large rocks from the wall posed a threat. Traffic was diverted onto Lulani Street, a narrow winding residential street that cuts above the highway.
Lulani residents are frustrated about the additional traffic on their little street. They say it cannot handle the volume or the large vehicles that now pass in front of their homes all day.
The mud and retaining wall slipped onto the highway from private property at 47-327 Lulani Street, a property owned by Nicholas and Constance Strauser. The city gave the Strausers until January 29 to rebuild their retaining wall.
But Thursday the city said it will not have to wait until the 29th to reopen the highway.
"We want the road to open as soon as possible The immediate hazard of that large piece of rock wall has been already removed. So we're looking at opening Kamehameha Highway as soon as we can and we're not going to wait until all construction has been completed," said Peter Hirai, Deputy Director of the City Department of Emergency Management.
No exact date for re-opening the highway has been set, but it could happen as soon as early next week.
"If they open before the 29th it would mean a lot less traffic on Lulani Street. The buses could be re-routed back to Kam Highway and … it will be much more peaceful on Lulani Street," Merkel.
The Strausers and / or their insurance company will pay for the hillside stabilization and construction of a new wall. The city will ask them to also reimburse the city for the cost of maintaining the road closure and detour.
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