Kawela Bridge Replacement Underway
For years, Kawela residents living along the highway about five miles east of Kaunakakai have experienced flooding of Kawela Stream during heavy rains. Now, the year-and-a-half process of replacing the Kawela Bridge has begun, which state Department of Transportation (DOT) officials say should improve water flow and mitigate future flooding.
Construction of the new bridge is scheduled to continue through January 2014, according to a statement from Goodfellow Bros., the Molokai company contracted to complete the work. The $8.4 million project is being paid for with $6.5 million in federal funds, $1.6 million in state money, and some additional funding, according to DOT spokesperson Michael Moscati.
The existing bridge, constructed in 1940, does not conform to current state and federal highway standards and, although it is used regularly by pedestrians and cyclists, does not have a designated bike lane, according to a 2009 draft Environmental Assessment. In addition, the bridge has been deemed “hydraulically inadequate” to handle flooding of Kawela Stream.
The new bridge will be almost 20 feet wider than the existing bridge, allowing for a 10-foot wide shoulder on each side of the highway, said Moscati, via email. The streambed under the new bridge will be lined with concrete to protect the banks from erosion and to facilitate maintenance, he added.
Todd Svetin, Goodfellow Bros. project manager, said a detour route will be constructed makai side of the existing bridge for traffic to use while the new bridge is being built. Hours of construction will be from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to Goodfellow Bros. The company advises motorists to use caution when traveling in the construction area, and follow all traffic control signs and posted speed limits.
Many local residents hope the bridge replacement will mean an end to flooding.
“We are glad construction on the bridge is beginning,” said Frances Feeter, a homeowner who lives near Kawela Stream. “We have been flooded four times in the 20 years we’ve been living here,” she added. The Feeters’ property was blocked by debris washed down the highway after this March’s heavy rains.
Yet Feeter and her husband, Bill, have doubts about the bridge replacement’s effectiveness.
“While the bridge has acted like a dam in high run-off times due to lack of clearance under the bridge, without regular maintenance and clearing of the rubble underneath,
it will keep happening,” she said. “Residents here are planning to ‘remind’ the highway department [to clear debris] each fall.”