Lava evacuees could use Chain of Craters Road as early as Saturday

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - State transportation officials say Chain of Craters Road is expected to be ready as an evacuation route through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as early as Saturday should lava cut off Highway 130.

Crews began working Wednesday to remove a .7-mile section of solidified lava from the road. That specific portion of the bypass road was covered by lava in 2016 and 2017.

The rough grading and other reconstruction efforts necessary to make the roadway passable were expected to take about two weeks, but a transportation department spokesperson said Friday that the work was ahead of schedule.

"This is a huge lift for a lot of agencies who got involved together to get this done," said Ed Sniffen, the Deputy Highways Director for the Hawaii Department of Transportation. "We worked closely with national parks and the county to ensure we can re-establish this emergency route."

The road links the town of Kalapana to Highway 11, which travels from Keaau through the Ka'u District along the northern border of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

"It's a long route, a long detour route, not one we'd want to open up for normal use," said Sniffen. "Nobody would want to use something like this too long, but definitely for emergency access, (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) is happy to help us out."

The route will be for evacuation purposes only and not as an alternate route to and from Kalapana.

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