East Maui drivers brace for closures due to highway repairs

East Maui drivers brace for closures due to highway repairs
Updated: Jan. 21, 2018 at 8:47 PM HST
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(Image: Jonathan Starr)
(Image: Jonathan Starr)

EAST MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A couple of major projects will disrupt traffic for residents and visitors in East Maui.

The repair work to deal with hazards along the back road to Hana will begin on Monday. The project on Piilani Highway involves landslide repairs at Nuanualoa Gulch.

"The road is slipping down and off the mountain and a lot of the outside portion of the road that overhangs a cliff has already fallen away," explained Jonathan Starr, a member of the Kaupo Community Association.

The work will involve weekday closures from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., according Starr. County officials said the $2 million project is expected to last from Jan. 22 through mid-August. The actual road closures start on February 5.

Residents are more concerned about a project to repair Waiopai Bridge this summer.

"The concrete is starting to spall and there are places on the roadway where you see steel underneath and the columns also need work," said Starr.

The county had planned a complete shutdown for three weeks.

"It just becomes very problematic for the people living on the east side, but also the people that come and visit and the people that work in Hana that come in and out," said State Sen. J. Kalani English (D-Hana, East and Upcountry Maui).

The Department of Public Works director met with worried residents on Saturday. According to the Kaupo Community Association, he told residents that the county may try to use new technology that would only require a nighttime closure, with one lane of traffic open during the day.

"The only other road to East Maui, the Hana Highway on the North Shore, is undergoing repairs constantly and is often closed," said Starr.

Another major project ahead is on Piilani Highway at Kalepa, where waves have undermined the base causing sinkholes to form. A county spokesman said temporary repairs have been made and officials are looking at long-term plans.