J.Kalani English

Road between Kaupo and Kipahulu reopens

The Haleakala Times
October 08, 2008

WAILUKU — Piilani Highway reopened ahead of schedule on Sunday, Oct. 5. Drivers are reminded to proceed cautiously.

The roadway that connects the remote communities of Kaupo and Kipahulu had been closed for nearly two years following the Oct. 15, 2006 Kiholo Bay earthquake. The 6.7 earthquake caused rockfalls, destabilized cliff faces and undermined sections of the road.

Emergency rockfall projects at Manawainui, Kalepa and Alelele removed loose and unstable rocks from the sometimes steep cliff faces and installed rockfall netting in destabilized areas.

High-pressure concrete was applied to the supporting cliff faces of three undermined sections of the roadway between mile posts 38 and 39.

The cost of the four emergency projects totaled $10.8 million. FEMA funds may reimburse the county for eligible portions of the emergency repairs for an estimated total of $3 million; the county has received $1.1 million so far. "We had anticipated about a month more of work, so being ahead of schedule is outstanding," said Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

"It means that the people of Hana, Kipahulu and Kaupo can be reunited without traveling for hours through Central and Upcountry Maui. The difficulty of the long travel and the rising costs of fuel were keeping some families apart. We're very happy to reconnect family and friends again and really appreciate their patience, help and understanding while we addressed the post-earthquake disaster."

Over ten miles of the road remained closed for the duration of the stabilization work, and drivers that did not heed roadway signs announcing the road closure were forced to turn around at Kipahulu and return to Central Maui via Hana's winding roads.

"Educating drivers — mostly visitors — that there was no 'through' traffic on the eastern side of the island proved to be one of the more challenging obstacles," Tavares noted. "To the dismay of the residents, many drivers used private driveways in Kipahulu to turn around and park illegally, which added to the distress of the affected community. I'm sure these residents are relieved as well.

"I took office three months after the earthquake and began to work with the two communities that were facing hardship in the conditions that the earthquake created," Tavares continued. "We had to quickly gain an assessment and focus our work on completing the large-scale mitigation work as soon as possible. We also needed to be sensitive and mindful of the cultural and historical importance of the areas."

One business, the Kaupo Store, suffered significant losses when visitor travel around the eastern side of Haleakala through Kaupo stopped due to the post earthquake road closure. "This local business had to endure the aftermath of a natural disaster, and I encourage people to stop by and support the Kaupo Store," said Tavares.

Nearly 150 people from the Kaupo and Kipahulu communities came together Saturday to celebrate the much-anticipated reopening at a rededication ceremony held on the Alelele Bridge.

In attendance was Sen. J. Kalani English, whose district includes the remote eastern side of Maui.

"This highway is more than just a road," Senator English told the crowd. "Growing up in Hana and traveling this road, I remember the stories of the place and how it brought families and friends together. I appreciate that Mayor Tavares held her ground and completed the work, despite certain agencies suggesting that the road not be reopened."

National Park Service Acting Superintendent Mark Rentz, representing Superintendent Marilyn Parris who was out of town, remarked on the exceptional partnership between Haleakala National Park and the county. The National Park Service owns portions of land in the area that were affected by the earthquake.

© Copyright 2007 Haleakala Times

Original article URL: http://www.haleakalatimes.com/News/story3299.aspx

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