Backlash to state's plan for Makaha bridges

Backlash to state's plan for Makaha bridges

MAKAHA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Transportation will replace two old bridges in Makaha with sturdier modern ones. But upset residents say don't fix the bridges, move Farrington Highway.

The bridges are a tenth of a mile apart. They've carried 76-years worth of traffic.

"Because they're wooden and they're old, it deteriorates very quickly. It needs a lot of maintenance and it's really not up to par," DOT spokesperson Caroline Sluyter said.

The state will replace them with reinforced concrete and steel. But opponents of the project feel the bridges are solid and don't need to be torn down.

"There's been no restrictions placed on them, either speed or lanes of traffic or weight restrictions," said Al Frenzel of Save Makaha Beach.

The state will spend about $20 million on the new bridges and widen the highway.

"It will be twelve-foot lanes instead of what they have currently, which is eleven. It'll also have a ten-foot pedestrian or shoulder lane so it will be safer for bikes and pedestrians," Sluyter said.

In the 1990s, the state wanted to move the highway farther from the shoreline but abandoned the plan. Frenzel wants it revived. He said speeders and drunk drivers make the present stretch dangerous.

"Build these bridges where they're wanted on the mauka side of the beach or the beach park. Don't replace the bridges where they're at right now," he said.

He believes the state's plan to build a temporary bypass closer to the beach and beachgoers will be an accident waiting to happen.

"We do understand the community's concerns, and we are aware of that, and we do want to work with them," Sluyter said. "We will have traffic control out there during the times of the work when the temporary bypass is there."

She said the DOT is only focusing on replacing the bridges, not realigning the highway. She said moving it mauka would destroy a wetland.

"We're not asking them to destroy a wetland," Frenzel said. "We're asking them to protect a wetland by properly routing Farrington Highway around it, and around the beach and the beach park.

Project opponents circulated a petition and signed up more than 2,000 people.

The transportation department said the project has cleared the state's Environmental Assessment process. It wants to begin work in 2014.

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