The Kulanihakoi Bridge on South Kihei Road will be closed from approximately 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday to clear it of traffic and enable workers to do emergency repairs on the 102-year-old bridge, Maui County announced Tuesday.
The portion of South Kihei Road between Kulanihakoi and Kaonoulu streets will be closed, and all traffic will be detoured to Piilani Highway for the day, officials said.
"We understand that it's an inconvenience, but we want to relieve as much stress as possible from the existing roadway and try to get the work completed in a timely manner," Department of Public Works Deputy Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya said. "As a mom, I understand the delays involved with trying to get here or there, but we want to try to inform the public about the closure while this project is underway."
Goodfellow Bros. Inc. has been contracted to do the repairs, and it will install 1-inch steel plates over the existing bridge "to relieve stress on the deteriorating structure," county officials said.
Detour signs and electric traffic sign boards will be set up to notify motorists of the road closure, Dagdag-Andaya said.
"We've done emergency bridge work many times before, mostly in Hana, but we always work with the residents, and we have notifications," she said. "We anticipate delays, but we'll keep the community informed."
When asked why the closure was not scheduled for a weekend day with less traffic - for example, Sunday - county officials said they wanted to "get this done as soon as possible." The county conferred with the contractors, the state Department of Transportation and fire and safety officials in determining "the best plan possible," Dagdag-Andaya said.
On Tuesday, Kihei Community Association President Mike Moran said he thought a notice at least a week in advance would have been more appropriate for the "critical" roadway closure on Thursday.
"How come we get a day-and-a-half notice?" he asked. "This was very important. I thought the communication from the county was very poor.
"For something that's critical like this, you're closing one of two through routes that go to and from Kihei," he said.
Moran said he expects "a lot of congestion" and impatient drivers who may be delayed getting their children to school or going to work on time.
"It won't be catastrophic, but a lot of heavy traffic," he said.
County spokesman Rod Antone, who said he spoke to Moran in a phone call on Tuesday, apologized to the Kihei community and motorists for the late notice. The county public information office should have sent out a news release about the road closure when it received the Public Works Department's request to do so Friday. But the office failed to do so because it was short-staffed last week.
The safety of the aging bridge, originally built in 1911, had been a concern of Kihei residents for a number of years. Then, after a bridge inspection report last year diagnosed the bridge as being "in a very deteriorated condition," county officials took more proactive measures to address the problem.
Work has begun to replace the entire bridge with a longer and wider roadway. Construction is not expected to begin until 2015 because of the lengthy permitting process for such a project. A draft environmental assessment for the Kulanihakoi Bridge replacement project was published last month.
Worried that the existing bridge would not last until then, county officials proposed to reinforce the existing bridge with steel plates.
The road is scheduled to be reopened late Thursday night or early Friday morning, officials said.
* Eileen Chao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.