Work begins to clear hardened lava from critical road in lower Puna

Crews begin to clear lava from Highway 132

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than a year after lava from the Kilauea eruption covered a critical road in lower Puna, work to clear the hardened lava will begin on Monday.

Crews will focus their work on a 3-mile stretch of hardened lava — where in some areas, lava is as high as 40 feet.

It’s a day the Puna community has been waiting for.

“I’m really grateful that today is the day,” said Kapoho resident Smiley Burrows. “It’s really going to truly recover our community and bring things to some sense of normalcy again as far as connectivity. Getting these roads open is really the first step to recovery.”

The county says the near-term goal is build a temporary road to restore access to as many as 56 properties isolated by the lava flows, as well as create connections to Government Beach Road and Lighthouse Road at Four Corners.

“A lot of people have been patiently waiting to get back to homes and farms,” said Hawaii County Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz, who represents Puna. “Just seeing the equipment there, I think, has settled a lot of nerves and people are elated by the fact that driving home is going to be happening in a few short months.”

Back in April, Puna Geothermal Venture opened an access road on its property, but residents said the road is not easy to drive on.

The $12 million project is set to wrap up by the first week of October — the deadline for the county to get federal reimbursement.

“The fact that it happened in such a compressed amount of time, I’m pleasantly surprised and quite happy that despite all the bureaucracy we were able to get this done for the community so quickly,” said Kierkiewicz.

County officials say whether Highway 132 will be fully restored depends on a study of alternatives that is being done by consultants this summer.

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