Extended Hana road closure stir concerns for residents, small businesses

The bridge repairs could take 2 months, and some businesses are hurting.
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 7:02 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 7, 2022 at 8:48 PM HST
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KIPAHULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A “road closed ahead” sign flashes in Ulupalakua, more than 26 miles before the actual closure in Kipahulu.

It’s been nearly a week since a damaged bridge prompted Maui County to close the so-called “back road” to Hana. The bridge repairs could take two months to complete.

Meanwhile, some small businesses are already hurting.

“A lot fewer customers, less people coming this way, even some of the locals who go fishing won’t go out this way because they think the road is closed,” said Maurissa De Ponte.

De Ponte owns Bully’s Burgers, a burger stand in Kanaio.

She said the road-closure sign deters customers from venturing down her way.

“Thousands, thousands, and that’s her profit,” said De Ponte’s mother, Paige. “So how is she going to pay herself? She’s trying to make money to feed her kids as a single mom and all of her profit is gone.”

Maui County closed Hana Highway near Mile Marker 39.5 last Wednesday after crews found severe damage under the Kukuiula Bridge.

Officials said recent flooding weakened the scour protection at the bridge’s foundation so emergency repairs were needed.

Initially they said the closure would last two weeks. Now they are saying it will take two months.

“It is a little frustrating when we see tourists go around the barricade to pursue along the ‘back side,’” said East Maui resident Kamalani Pahukoa.

Despite the road being closed, cameras have captured several vehicles going around the signs or people moving them out of the way.

“It is dangerous. Like I said, it causes a little bit more frustration for East Maui residents, and once one person does it, 10 more follow,” Pahukoa said.

The “front side” or traditional way to Hana through Paia remains open.

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