Karsten Thot Bridge closure may affect Wahiawa businesses, but how?

Karsten Thot Bridge closure may affect Wahiawa businesses, but how?

The Karsten Thot Bridge on Kamehameha Highway is a lifeline for Wahiawa. But when the bridge closes down for repairs Sunday night, what's going to happen to the town?

The state is completely shutting down the 80-year-old bridge for repairs. While the work is being done, cars will be detoured to Wilikina Drive and Kamananui Road, essentially bypassing the town.

"Well, you're talking about people that commute from the North Shore that work in town. So it's going to be an inconvenience to them," said longtime Wahiawa resident Walter Chang.

"I think probably in the end we're going to look back and go, 'This was a great thing that happened.' But there's going to be a lot of people that are mad," said Tom Bauer.

The work on the bridge comes as Wahiawa itself is seeing a lot of change. Teddy's Bigger Burgers and Walgreen's recently opened for business there. Some fast-food restaurants, including McDonald's and Jack in the Box, are sporting brand new makeovers. The Taco Bell is closed for renovations, while Wendy's Hamburgers, long closed and vacant, is set to be rebuilt and reopened.

There's also a stretch along Kamehameha Highway that used to be home to strip bars. Now, it's being transformed, with Surfers Coffee Bar and Surf the Nations, a non-profit humanitarian organization, making their home there.

"I think because Wahiawa is the gateway to the North Shore, you figure all the tourists and everybody that's going are going to have to go all the way around. Maybe it's going to benefit all around that way, maybe the businesses will benefit there," said Bauer, founder of Surf the Nations.

Others said it may allow people to spend a little more time in town. "It gives them an opportunity to just kind of cruise," said resident Zach Ifland. "Instead of zipping to work, they can get a coffee here."

Ifland also notes that it is attracting attention to Wahiawa. "It's going to create buzz that there's construction going on in the town, so even if they have to avoid it, I still think it's a good thing because it's creating that 'Hey, things are happening!' it's a good thing," he said.

Longtime residents also note that while it's an inconvenience, the closure of the bridge is temporary.

"It'll reopen," said Chang. "Traffic will flow freely again, and back to normal."

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