No Asphalt Backs Up Road Projects

Erik Rhinelander of Road Builders says more workers are likely to stay home next week.
Erik Rhinelander of Road Builders says more workers are likely to stay home next week.

(KHNL) - Oahu's asphalt shortage is leaving paving projects and the construction companies doing them in bad shape.

Repaving work is at a standstill, and contractors say they won't be able to catch up on the backlog until next year.

"It's definitely gonna cost us," said Erik Rhinelander, of Road Builders. "This year we're looking to lose two months of work -- one from rain, and one because of this shortage, and we can't make that up. The time's lost."

Eleven of Road Builders 30 employees were told not to come to work. No asphalt means no work for them.

"It's real tough for the guys," said Solo Pamatigan, a supervisor at Road Builders. "Like everybody else, we got bills to pay, they got families to feed. Being down a week is tough, being down a month is.. It's a problem."

Other workers are doing odd jobs, but those are also dwindling fast.

"We gonna run out this week," said Rhinelander. "Probably next week be even slower, we get more guys staying home."

Other construction companies, including Grace Pacific and Ron's Construction have laid off more than 30-percent of their workforce.

"This is a big blow to the paving industry," said Rhinelander. "Basically, there's a lot of city work and a lot of work that they've been pushing for that's coming out now, but because we can't get asphalt. We can't get the job done. Can't get the projects completed."

Four state projects have been stopped: Kamehameha Highway (in Aiea, Kaneohe, and Kaaawa) and on the Aiea Access Road. These projects, and the ones that were planned will now be delayed.

"Once we fall behind, that's it," said Rhinelander. "We only got so many guys, so much machines, we're limited with our resources, so as far as catching up, everything just pushes back. I don't think we'll ever get caught up."

Tesoro is currently the only supplier of asphalt in Hawaii. It says it made a mistake when putting in its order for crude oil to make asphalt, and didn't know the state other refinery, Chevron, stopped supplying asphalt in April.

Tesoro expects to have asphalt ready on June 5th.