The Kolekole Bridge on the island of Hawaii has been under emergency repairs since last week, causing long traffic delays on the only road in and out of Hilo along the Hamakua coast.
In a recent inspection, the state Department of Transportation found that four of the steel trusses showed structural deterioration. Emergency welding quickly began to prop up two of the farms.
Prior to welding, the allowable weight of the bridge was four tons or 8,000 pounds, meaning that only one vehicle was allowed to cross at a time. As of Monday evening, the weight limit has been raised to 12 tonnes, allowing most emergency and public transport vehicles to cross the bridge.
Hawaii County Council member Heather Kimball said one-way traffic remains, so drivers should proceed with caution and be aware of traffic jams in the area.
“A particular challenge regarding closing this bridge for larger vehicles is that there is no alternate route. The old Mamalahoa in this area has two bridges which are also closed and have since been closed. Hurricane Lane, ”Kimball said. “So the trucks going north and south, the bigger vehicles were stopped at a point where they could turn around and come back the other way because there was no workaround.”
Larger vehicles had to take the Saddle Road to travel between north and south Hamakua.
“If you have to go from Honoka’a via Saddle (Road). It’s a much longer trip than just going straight down Hwy 19,” she said.
The estimated time frame for full repairs is three to four months, Kimball said, although this depends on the availability of materials.
The bridge is roughly at kilometer 14, between Honomu and Hakalau.
This interview aired on The Conversation on September 22, 2021.