Inspection planned for unstable slope along Hana Highway

Inspection planned for unstable slope along Hana Highway
Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 at 7:40 PM HST
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HANA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Workers from the Hawaii Department of Transportation will be conducting an in-depth assessment of a stretch of scenic road in East Maui that is prone to landslides. Severe weather caused damage along Hana Highway, leading to multiple closures of the road this past weekend.

"It's been consistent since July, we've been having heavy rains," said Wailua Nui resident Ed Wendt. "There's obstacle courses just about every day with trees and rocks on the highway."

On New Year's Eve, roughly 75 people were stranded for several hours between two huge mudslides. Debris from the mountain also pushed temporary barriers off the side of a cliff near Honomanu Bay.

"Right there it's just straight down so you don't have enough room to maneuver around in that area and it's dangerous," Wendt said.

DOT crews started emergency slope stabilization work in the area last September due to previous storm damage. The $1.5 million project was supposed to be finished in the next couple of months. A team will now conduct an assessment of the area on Wednesday.

"They're going to look to see how the emergency work so far has held up and also the need for more permanent, long-term solutions," explained DOT spokesperson Shelly Kunishige.

Kunishige said that one possible option is the installation of netting to catch falling rocks.

"If you put netting like that, you can control rocks coming down, but to control the cliff coming down, these large landslides, there's not much you can do besides trying to cut the whole mountain back," said Maui County Councilman Robert Carroll, who represents East Maui.

Many people are worried about the stability of the deteriorating coastal highway which is used by large tour buses, visitor vehicles and local traffic.

"When you travel the Hana Highway, it's hazardous conditions because you don't know when anything is going to fall," Wendt said.

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