The state is replacing rivets and repairing or replacing steel beams on the Karsten Thot bridge. But Gov. Neil Abercrombie told Hawaii News Now the emergency overhaul may be a short term solution.
"It may be more useful and practical to think about building an entire new bridge," he said. "That's the conclusion we're trying to come to as rapidly as we can."
State transportation officials said there are still years of life left in the bridge. But they confirmed they are starting to ask whether a replacement may be needed for the long haul.
"This is a very preliminary discussion so no decision has been made. We're maybe looking at asking for some planning funds to take a look at what's really needed," Department of Transportation director Glenn Okimoto said.
A new bridge could be made out of steel like Karsten Thot or a concrete structure. Because the structure is over 50 years old the State Historic Preservation Office would have a say.
"The cost we estimate would be between $10 to $20 million," DOT bridge engineer Paul Santo said.
A federal report in 2007 classified the Karsten Thot bridge as "functionally obsolete."
"The fact is that that 80-year-old bridge is a health and safety hazard that could literally result in especially trucks causing the bridge to collapse," Abercrombie said.
In July the state imposed a ten ton weight limit on vehicles after inspections found things that needed to be fixed.
"Our structural consultant found more deficiencies than were previously identified, this included more corroded rivets and steel connection plates," Santo said.
Last week the DOT announced the bridge needed to close for immediate emergency repairs. The state said 23,000 vehicles cross the Karsten Thot bridge daily, multiplying the wear and tear.
"We have to make a decision as to whether or not this 80-year-old bridge can continue even with repairs," Abercrombie said.
Those repairs will cost taxpayers about $4.5 million.