Hanalei Bridge Closures And Multi-Year Repairs Begin

Hanalei Bridge Closures And Multi-Year Repairs Begin

This update reflects the latest June 2023 report just released by the state. The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) announced that there would be full closures every night of the Kūhio Highway between the Hanalei Plantation Road and Ohiki Road. That is a result of the necessary ongoing Hanalei Bridge repair. It will start on June 27, 2023, and there is no precise end date. The closures will occur from 11 pm to 530am every Sunday through Thursday nights. At this time, no closures are planned for Friday and Saturday nights. We noticed crews getting in place the past several times we crossed the bridge recently.

The Hanalei Bridge repairs are essential to ensure the continued use of the Hanalei Bridge. Repairs in process, according to the HDOT, “Include deck refurbishment, repairs to bridge trusses and stringers, replacement of post-tension rods, and painting to protect the structure from erosion.”

The state said this would go on for the next six months, or perhaps longer, as the duration is partly weather-dependent and work of this nature progresses slowly on Kauai.

This comes after five years of intermittent but ongoing troubles associated with travel to Kauai’s north shore.  The state is continuing with plans that impact normally sleepy Hanalei, Kauai. However, things are looking good in the long run for visitors seeking to enjoy the north shore’s epic beauty.

BOH editors were at Hanalei this past Sunday and encountered an extremely frustrating, multi-hour delay when returning across the bridge. However, that resulted from a dangling power line over the road. The point is, however, that with one lane in each direction, any problem can result in very long delays. The line of cars on Sunday extended from the bridge all the way through Hanalei town.

Following two devastating landslides in five years – Hanalei road repairs continue.

Since then, the highway has been through it all, including extended periods of closures, followed by one-lane openings with convoys and traffic jams for hours. It was so bad that we avoided traveling to the north shore for long periods. Luckily, that’s been resolved for some time now. This has been worse for those living on the north shore, whose communities had lost regular vehicular access.

We know, this work is not what we wanted to hear about. Your editors like to swim at Hanalei during summer and couldn’t do so often because of flood repair road work in 2021. Getting into and out of Hanalei took a very long time. But now in 2023, it’s been great to be back in the ocean at Hanalei Bay, Kauai, which has been rated one of the best beaches in the USA. Just look at the photo, and you’ll see why. But as we drive down to the bridge, we see work crews in position, and it is clear that more work lies ahead, both for the bridge and the hillside.

On the plus side, there’s a new, soon-to-be-opened Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge overlook and a large parking area that will also open soon, with restrooms just before you reach the entrance to Princeville. This will give us all more room to look at the spectacular Hanalei Valley below and its taro fields.

Hanalei Bay Kauai

North Shore traffic jams have returned in a different way.

While many months of road closures followed by traffic jams due to road work and alternative one-lane-only traffic in 2021 and 2022  brought an entirely different set of problems, now tourists have returned to Hanalei, and with them have come normal traffic backups. Combining many cars with meandering pedestrian traffic and limited sidewalks makes it challenging.

Historic Hanalei Bridge.

The bridge was built in 1912, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, and extensive preservation work was completed in 2003. Being one lane, travelers in both directions are expected to proceed in moderate numbers (6–8 cars) before letting oncoming traffic have the right of way.

Major bridge repairs and road remediation will bring more closures and traffic.

 

Repairs on the Hanalei bridge are needed to correct both damage and corrosion. That will include replacing supporting wood structures and repainting, among other things. Now that these repairs are beginning, we were originally told to expect them to last approximately one year. Currently, plans still call for all of the work to be done at night.

The state acknowledged that it hadn’t done a good job of maintaining its bridges and dropped the ball on accessing federal funding, allowing them to fall into disrepair. Yes, you read that right. They missed the funding deadline for the project.

The DOT said that both current projects are expected to take over two years to complete.

Second, work on the Hanalei hill area, the site of the previous massive landslide, which cut off the rest of the island from the north shore, isn’t complete. The first phase of the repairs was done, but another major project is required to complete slope stabilization and an anchored mesh system. Yet another project to stabilize slopes is still planned for the Waikoko area, although that is not yet finalized, and there’s no date planned. While the DOT says we should expect two years of road work on these projects,  our experience here is that things always take longer than planned.

Both of these projects will require one-lane road closures of some duration.

Lastly, another stabilization project along the highway near the Hanalei river will address erosion that last year led to a guardrail failure. In addition to that, invasive vegetation has blocked up to half the width of the river in some places. The methodology for this stabilization repair is still under consideration, and it isn’t clear if or how the state can help deal with the vegetation since it is on private property.

What’s your reaction to the planned projects?

Are you more interested in the historic Hanalei bridge repair, a potential first stoplight, or the hillside repair completion? Leave your thoughts and join the discussion.

[See our previous June 2022 update on the Hanalei Bridge work.]

All photos © Beat of Hawaii.

 

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15 thoughts on “Hanalei Bridge Closures And Multi-Year Repairs Begin”

  1. Glad the repairs are underway, but also glad we just finished our long-awaited family trip to the beloved north shore just last week. Would have been such a bummer to have construction impact it. I hope it goes well, especially for the sake of the locals! Aloha

      1. We had this situation where we live. We have an old historic bridge that was one lane. The problem was solved perfectly. A modern two lane bridge was built close by that is now used and is safer. The historic one lane bridge is nearby and everyone is able to walk/ride bikes on it safely. Doing this is also safer for the bridge. Before the new bridge was built, somebody crashed their car on the bridge and it had to be restored. That problem will never happen again.

  2. We have a place in Princeville and were aware of the landslide and an inkling on the bridge needing attention as we kayak the river when we are there. It’s been a few years since we have been back (Covid and the 11+ hour nonstop flight from the East Coast). We are hoping to return next year as we love the North Shore and the Hawaiian culture.

  3. Aloha guys. Well I would say that firmly puts the last nail in the coffin, as they say. Talk about a great slowdown for wanna-be visitors. North shore embodies just about all the images that visitors think about when planning a trip there. Better starting the work sooner than later though. Would hate to hear or see the bridge collapse. Figures they missed the funding deadline. Those govt.people are on too long a vacation. Well I wish you both a great summer. Get all your swimming in and practice your patience. You’re gonna need it.

  4. There is a need for highly visible posted directions or even traffic lights to ensure that even the visitors know the expected procedures. Most people will yield if they know it’s expected. And, I’m glad the bridges will be finally repaired appropriately, especially for the sake of those who have to cross the bridge daily. Mahalo!

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  5. We were visiting Kauai when the torrential rains caused the landslides, and were back during the erosion stabilization was in place. Out of respect for the residents needing access, we avoided that area, much to our loss of the beauty for that stretch of the north shore. I would do the same during the current repairs.

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  6. “This comes after four years of intermittent but ongoing troubles associated with travel to Kauai’s north shore.”

    That would be over five years (starting April 2018 flood). The 6-8 cars “local tradition” should not be the rule. It is more efficient to drain all cars in each direction with the other side “yielding” until clear to go. Semi-related, Any day now there will be a Bridge Rage incident at the double bridges in Wainiha, because tourists (too) frequently don’t yield (wait their turn).

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    1. Hi David.

      Thanks. Fixed. Funny we thought about that at the small bridges this weekend. But in the end the crossings all went smoothly. We didn’t mention that a result of the power line being down everything in Hanalei had to be shut down including all the restaurants and stores. It was something else.

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  7. It would not surprise me if the state dealt with the invasive species on private property the way most municipalities do – telling the owner to “Deal with it or we will fine you.”

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