WAHIAWA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drivers are breathing a sigh of relief after weeks of frustration heading through Wahiawa. The northbound lane of the Karsten Thot Bridge is back open for the afternoon rush hour.
Winona Aguero noticed a huge difference driving home to Whitmore Village from her job at Leeward Community College. She was thrilled that her 20 minute commute was back.
"Coming home, I tried 4:30, 5:30, 6:30 (p.m.) and it still doesn't help. It's been over an hour. Sometimes I feel like I'm a road rage driver," said Aguero.
The state is reopening the Haleiwa-bound lane of the bridge from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays. Most of the major structural work under the 80-year-old span is nearly done. At the Wahiawa-Whitmore Village Neighborhood Board meeting, drivers expressed their gratitude and frustration.
"In the near future, please if you guys could extend the courtesy of letting the public know prior to the bridge closure and something like this and do a complete study," asked Whitmore Village resident Eddie Ramos.
"It wasn't something that I had time to do a community outreach, meet with communities, do any kind of a study. For safety purposes, we had to make a decision," explained highways administrator Alvin Takeshita.
Experts said the emergency repairs will extend the life of the bridge another 10 to 20 years. In the meantime, the state is looking at other options for the future, including rehabilitation, replacement, or realignment.
"It's still preliminary. It's going to be part of our upcoming budget, so it's something that we have submitted to the governor's office for review," said Department of Transportation deputy director Jadine Urasaki.
"If we can start that planning now, and catch up for all the years that we've missed, hopefully we can avoid the situation the next time this happens," said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz (D - Wahiawa, Haleiwa, North Shore).
The southbound lane of the bridge will still be open from 5 to 9 a.m. on weekdays. The repairs are expected to be finished by the end of October.