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HDOT replacing corroded sea wall in four-month highway project at Ukumehame

By Staff | Dec 17, 2015

WEST MAUI – West Siders are protective of the vital two-lane portion of Honoapiilani Highway from Lahaina to the Pali Tunnel.

The once idyllic scenic coastal corridor is being armored by the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) in an epic battle against sea level rise and coastal erosion a section at a time; choice of weapon: seawalls, rock revetments and jersey barriers.

Scientist Dr. Mark Deakos has been tracking the situation, and he summarized his findings: “Over five years, the HDOT would invest over $35 million to armor 22 percent of the 6.3-mile long coastal portion of Honoapiilani Highway.”

Further, “HDOT has armored more shoreline in Maui than all of the island’s private property owners combined.”

So when construction started on Dec. 1 south of Olowalu along the shoreline without advance notice, the community was rightly suspicious and asked for an explanation.

Representing her constituents, Sixth District Sen. Roz Baker queried the HDOT and got answers from Deputy Director Ed Sniffen.

The Guardrail and Shoulder Improvements Project is taking place in the vicinity of Ukumehame, Mile Posts 13.2 and 13.3.

“It is a System Preservation project that will improve guardrails, concrete barriers and shoulders along the highway. The project is limited to the highway right of way inside of the existing sea wall and will replace existing metal guardrails,” Sniffen wrote in an e-mail to the West and South Maui senator.

“The impetus for this project was the corroded concrete barrier on the makai side of the highway,” Sniffen continued, “and we addressed the mauka guardrails throughout the same project length.”

Considered unsafe, 550 feet of deteriorated concrete barrier is being replaced.

“There will be no new barrier added,” Sniffed advised, “we are only replacing the existing. We are also not adding any openings in the barriers, nor are we changing the grades in the area. We are restoring the area to match existing conditions when the project is completed.”

Best Management Practices will be implemented to protect water quality and the adjacent marine environment.

Construction is anticipated to continue for four months, through the high season, December through March.

The price tag is $2.19 million, with the feds contributing 80 percent.

Baker asked Sniffen for better communication with the community.

“On a going forward basis, is it possible to better inform Representative (Angus) McKelvey and me as well as send press releases when visible work like this is getting close to commencing?”

His answer, “Absolutely.”