WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - If you wanted to cross the Karsten Thot Bridge this weekend, you weren't supposed to drive faster than 15 miles per hour. But judging from the amount of traffic, motorists are just glad that they can cross it at all.
The bridge reopened to traffic early Friday morning, but this was the first weekend that Wahiawa area businesses have had a chance to see if things are returning to normal.
"There's been a definitely impact on our Friday and Saturday day sales," said Scott Harada, manager at the iconic Dot's Restaurant at the north end of Wahiawa near the bridge. "And so definitely the bridge has made a huge impact and we're back to like almost regular kind of business now."
According to Harada, business was down 40 to 50 percent when the bridge first closed for repairs September 17, causing major traffic slowdowns.
"Usually we get one lineup with ten tables every night, but there was only four tables, three tables, and we were standing around for nothing," said Dot's waitress Margarite Emilyon.
On Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was still nearly full after the lunch rush, with a few more people coming in.
Down Kamehameha Highway at Maui Mike's, the place was jammed with people lining up for their roasted chicken. Business here was down about 20 percent during the bridge closure, forcing the restaurant to cut workers' hours.
Dot's management said things could have been worse if not for their longtime regular customers. "Our loyal customers are so loyal that they made it a point to come out and still support so that changes wouldn't have to be made and so forth, so we're lucky in that respect," said Harada.
Emilyon, a longtime resident of nearby Whitmore Village, has her own reasons to be happy that the bridge has been reopened. "I would catch the bus, but the bus was taking so long in the traffic, I decided just to walk," she said. "It takes more 25 minutes to walk. And then I got exercise, which I never need, but I feel it in the legs now."
State transportation officials estimated the closure would be for six weeks. The Department of Transportation said there's still work to be done both above and below the roadway, but enough has been done to allow it to reopen the bridge nearly two weeks ahead of schedule. Businesses are glad things could get back to normal that much sooner.
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