Kolekole bridge disruption: emergency weight limit impacts emergency responders, truckers and public transport
State Senator Lorraine Inouye said on Friday that the state Department of Transportation declared the Hawaii Belt Road area near the Kolekole Bridge a “highway emergency zone.”
“What this means is that they can get the job done in a shorter time frame,” said Inouye, deputy chair of the Senate Transport Committee, which represents the district where the bridge is located.
“It also allows the department to use other sources of funding” instead of depending solely on the DOT budget, she said.
Inouye thanked Governor David Ige and DOT officials for the statement, which she said was made because “the structural engineer … determined the structure to be unsafe due to advanced deterioration and corrosion. advanced various steels (firm) “.
“They are currently preparing the repairs to restore the integrity of the structure,” she said.
The DOT said on Wednesday that the vehicle weight limit for the bridge – which sits about a quarter of a mile north of the 14-mile Hawaii Belt Road (Route 11) post – has been reduced to 4 tonnes. On Friday, only one car was allowed to cross the bridge at a time.
The ministry had initially estimated the time for these repairs between three and four months, “pending the availability of construction materials”.
On Friday, however, Shelly Kunishige, spokesperson for the department, said the estimate had been adjusted due to the declaration of emergency.
“After further analysis, we are continuing with emergency welding to support the increase in the weight restriction to 12 tons,” Kunishige said. “While waiting for the availability of a contractor, we estimate that this could be finished next week.
“For longer term repairs, we always allow three to four months while waiting for materials to become available.”
The effects of reducing the bridge’s weight limit are already being felt by motorists, truckers, county emergency responders and public transit, as well as daily commuters. Traffic control personnel allowed only one car to pass through the structure at that time on Friday, causing traffic to be significantly delayed in both directions.
Due to the 4-ton weight limit, the county transit agency posted a passenger alert on its Hele-On Bus webpage. Routes 1, between Hilo and Kona; 60, between Hilo and Waimea; and 80, between Hilo and the resorts of South Kohala were affected by what he called the “brutal closure” of the bridge.
“We do a lot of scrambling, but we’re just trying to make sure that we can logistically get people in from east to west while covering some sections of Hwy 19 north and south of the bridge.” John said. Andoh, the county’s acting transit administrator.
“It will definitely add travel time for those closest to the bridge. “
Andoh advised riders to go to the Mass Transit website at heleonbus.org “for initial details on our plans”, and to follow Hele-On Bus on Twitter and Facebook “where we post detours and adjustments from last minute service. “
Hawaii Fire Chief Kazuo Todd said his staff were also making adjustments.
“Having stations in town responding to, say, Laupahoehoe to support (a firefighting effort) is no longer quite an option,” he said. “So our secondary unit for Laupahoehoe will come out of Honokaa – and we also have a Paauilo volunteer station, then we have the Waimea fire station. And we also have (a volunteer station) in Waimea. “
The secondary response to a fire at Laupahoehoe Point Gym early Thursday afternoon came from Waimea instead of Hilo due to the Kolekole Bridge situation. Firefighters who responded to an alarm at 1:18 p.m. found police already there.
Neighboring residents had put out a small fire in the exterior stairs and floor of the Plantation Era facility, which is not in use due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Todd called the fire “rather suspicious” and said it was under investigation.
“Unfortunately, with a lot of these incidents, there aren’t many witnesses, and older gyms don’t have a security system where cameras can point out anything definitive,” he said. added.
Ashley Nichole Turner, a 36-year-old woman with no permanent address, was arrested Thursday on Laupahoehoe Point Road, where the gymnasium is located, and charged with fourth degree arson. However, according to Hawaii Police Department spokeswoman Denise Laitinen, Turner is accused of starting a small brush fire on Laupahoehoe Point Road and not the gymnasium fire.
“This fire was only 20 feet by 10 feet,” Laitinen said. “The arresting officer extinguished the brush fire before it affected life or property. “
The DOT said in a statement Friday night that it was working with Hawaii County emergency responders and would allow ambulances on the bridge. Earlier today, Todd said anyone north of the bridge needing ambulance transportation to a hospital was taken to the Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea.
According to Todd, fire rescue operations are of greater concern – especially if there is a car crash or other rescue needed in any of the valleys or ravines along the Hamakua coast. – because Hilo’s rescue truck is too heavy for the bridge.
“Our staff discussed it throughout the day and came up with some creative solutions, such as using the helicopter and transporting staff with smaller vehicles while we waited for our Kona truck to circle the area. longer, ”he said. . “We would still be able to get there in about the same amount of time, but there’s more logistical thinking about how we’re going to get our (equipment) there. “
Email John Burnett at [email protected]