The Hawaii Department of Transportation (DOT) says the Karsten Thot Bridge in Wahiawa will be open for northbound (Haleiwa-bound) passenger traffic starting Monday afternoon.
The Haleiwa-bound lane will open from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
The southbound (Honolulu-bound) lane will remain open for morning commuters from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. on weekdays for the duration of the project.
"It's been crazy in the mornings. I've heard from the guys coming up from the North Shore in the afternoons taking like an hour and-a-half just to get here," said Wahiawa resident Glenn Pang.
"I think it's going to be a great idea to open that bridge," said Jary Sugano, a Mililani resident who commutes to work in Wahiawa a few times a week. "It's going to help traffic flow and help people get to where they need to get to."
It's not only the traffic that's been slow. Business has continued to be down as well. On Wednesday night, about half the tables at Dot's Restaurant were full, which staff members said was more characteristic of a weekend since the bridge shutdown.
The DOT urges motorists to use caution and proceed slowly over the bridge. The morning and afternoon lanes are open to passenger vehicles, emergency vehicles and school buses only. No city or tour buses or heavy commercial vehicles will be allowed.
Pedestrians will continue to be able to use the bridge. The afternoon northbound single lane opening is possible because much of the major critical structural work underneath the bridge is nearly complete. However, structural work on other members continues and further work involving sandblasting and painting below the bridge still needs to be done. Due to the closure, work has progressed well. Estimates for the project completion date are still within the six-week initial projection. If work continues as scheduled, DOT anticipates completion by the end of October.
Residents have their fingers crossed.
"Hopefully, it's the end of October," said Pang. "But you never know, right, until it actually happens."
Within the next year, additional work to repaint the top of the bridge structure will be put out to bid. This work is anticipated to take place during off-peak traffic times, such as at night or on weekends. While not considered part of this emergency work, the painting is important to reduce and prevent rust and corrosion.
The 80-year-old steel bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic for critical emergency structural repairs that include replacing rivets and repairing and/or replacing steel beams.
During an inspection this past July, it was determined that the bridge needed immediate repairs. Since that time, a work platform was built underneath the bridge. Crews performed preliminary work and further inspections. The DOT decided to close the bridge completely for safety reasons on Monday, September 17.
Voluntary compliance with the passenger vehicle-only restriction and 10-ton limit was not being consistently followed and presented a danger. Since closing the bridge, DOT engineers have been monitoring and evaluating the traffic situation, listening to community concerns and complaints, and working with the Honolulu Police Department and the area military installations to mitigate the traffic issues.
New steel plates are being installed during repair work beneath the bridge deck to provide additional structural reinforcement. Approximately 4,000 rivets are being removed and replaced with steel bolts.