An article in The Garden Island on October 4 shed new light on the challenging circumstances surrounding the requisite repairs to the road between Hanalei and Haena, which is currently closed to the public. As the article states, “State officials have abandoned any pretense that storm-damaged Kuhio Highway west of Hanalei can reopen before late January, and some sources familiar with what they describe as an “unsettled” situation say the road might not be reopen until the second half of 2019 — or even later.” Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) initially estimated that a full reopening of the road could occur this month, an updated news release hinted at a substantial additional delay. “The previous estimate to have repairs significantly completed was the end of the year,” DOT said. “However, with additional storm events like Lane and Olivia, the completion timeline is being reevaluated. No revised schedule was provided.
In addition to the physical challenges in restoring the damaged road, the article highlights significant procedural challenges. Kuhio Highway from the Hanalei Bridge to the end of the road gained listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, after years of effort by North Shore community groups and residents who sought to protect it from fundamental changes in its design and flow. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the law that governs the National Register, requires that multiple agencies evaluate and approve projects that may affect the function and design of a wide array of work on designated historic sites. At least four state agencies are required to officially accept the proposed repairs, including renovations to six one-land bridges along the road, and deem the work effective in protecting the historic nature of the highway before work can resume. The article reports that not all have done so.
It is reported that there are at least four sites on the highway where storm damage was extremely severe, with parts of the roadway collapsing, hillsides failing and existing retaining walls and other structures collapsing. Work appears to be moving along well at two of the sites, but at the other two major obstacles remain. Chief among them is the need to cut away and regrade part of a mauka hillside where the roadway has shifted but left no viable means of affecting repairs by shoring it up makai.
Needless to say, significant physical and procedural challenges remain, which seem to have the potential to keep the “end of the road” closed to the public for many, many more months.