By Wendy Osher
Governor Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation on Friday authorizing the use of state funds to expedite stabilization of Maui’s erosion-damaged Honoapiilani Highway.
State officials say the portion of two-way road in Launiupoko sustained significant erosion-related damage caused by waves and heavy rains.
State Rep. Angus McKelvey of West Maui said, “Both the declaration and the underlying project are critical for the West Maui community, as the Honoapiilani Highway is our critical artery to essential services and the only major airport in and out of Maui County.”
“This just underscores the necessity of why it was important to get the funds that we secured the past six years for protecting and moving the highway at Ukemeheme and Launioupoko,” said McKelvey.
McKelvey added though that the unforeseen damage of the March 11, 2011 tsunami “had on our only lifeline exceeded even legislative appropriations for these sections of the Honoapiilani Highway and that is why I am thankful to the Governor for authorizing the use of additional funds to provide the immediate manpower and materials to keep our highway open.”
McKelvey said any closure of the highway would have presented a potential economic crisis to the rest of the state by its impact on the recent recovery.
“Given that our economic recovery is being fueled primarily by the surge in the visitor industry, it’s easy to see how losing the only highway in and out of one of the largest visitor areas in Hawaii would have send a huge shockwave through the industry statewide,” he said.
The affected area includes the soil foundation under and adjacent to the highway.
Crews have since shifted the lanes approximately 18 feet around the damaged section.
The proclamation states:
“… the continual wave action against this section of Honoapiilani Highway will cause further erosion to the soil foundation necessitating its immediate repair and reconstruction to prevent its imminent collapse … the closure of a section of the highway for an extended period of time thereby isolating the residents, visitors and businesses in west Maui could endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the people, and the economy …”
State officials say completion of the project is expected to take one year.