Contraflow to last another week as crews shore up second stretch of crumbling highway

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North Shore residents will have to endure at least another week of contraflow on Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa, after another section of the road crumbled into the ocean.

Repairs begin Tuesday, March 1, and will last for about a week, with work from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

“We are going to go back and put in boulders in the area to try to prevent some of the wave action from hitting the roadway and then reinforce with cement and sand mix then repave on top of that,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara.

The area that fell into the ocean Saturday night is just 100 feet from another part of the highway that was fixed earlier this month, both portions damaged by big surf.

The northbound, or makai, lane of Kamehameha Highway near Kaaawa Valley Road and Kanenelu Beach in Kaaawa will remain closed 24 hours a day. Traffic will continue to be contraflowed in the southbound, or mauka, lane with flaggers on location 24 hours a day to assist with traffic flow, until the repairs are finished.

The state says work taking place this week is just a temporary fix, and will continue to work on a long-term solution to prevent further coastal erosion.

The problem is, those improvements won’t start until 2017 while University of Hawaii professors Chip Fletcher (geology and geophysics) and Panos Prevedouros (civil engineering) say the HDOT needs to act fast.

Fletcher says Kaaawa has had an erosion problem for at least 25 years, but blames the seasons especially strong surf as the reason for why the shoulder lane crumbled. “I’m not surprised the road is undercut. I actually thought it would have happened awhile ago,” he said.

Now, Prevedouros says, the state is playing catch up.

“They’re dealing with an emergency situation. They have to expedite the fix. At this time, it’s got to be a fix for the road to work,” Prevedouros said.

“There’s no easy solution. There’s no magic wand,” Fletcher said. “Whatever they do, it’s going to be expensive, complicated, and will take some time.”

Fletcher and Prevedouros say the state needs to look into possibly relocating the highway further inland, or building man-made lagoons along the coast, similar to what’s in Ko Olina.

But whatever the state decides to do, “we need to be prepared now because things are getting serious,” Prevedouros said.

“This erosion is likely to continue as long as we continue to have north waves in the winter time wrapping into that area. Once the trade winds come back — we’ve had a winter of very low trade winds so far this year — once the trade winds kick in again, which they may do any week now, they are going to exacerbate the erosion problem,” Fletcher said.

The public is urged to drive with caution in the area. A police officer or flagger will direct traffic throughout the single lane closure. Priority will be granted to emergency vehicles. Drivers are asked to avoid the area if possible. For the duration of the repair work, those on Oahu’s windward side or the North Shore may want to consider going through Honolulu and Wahiawa to reach their destination.

HDOT says it continues to address the long-term effects of sea-level rise on infrastructure through its membership on the Hawaii Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee, which is working to produce a framework for statewide adaptation measures to climate change and sea level rise. Click here for more information.

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