State to renovate Ninole Stream Bridge, but not Wailuku, Kolekole

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HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Singing Bridge in Hilo is listed as being in "poor" condition by the state Department of Transportation.
HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald The Kolekole Stream Bridge in Honomu is among 50 bridges in the state prioritized for repair.

Three Big Island bridges on Highway 19 are rated “high priority” for upgrade or repair by the state Department of Transportation, but only one will see construction this year.

The Wailuku Stream Bridge in Hilo, commonly referred to as the Singing Bridge, the Kolekole Stream Bridge in Honomu and the Ninole Stream Bridge near the 56-mile marker in Pahala are three of the 50 bridges in the state prioritized for repair by the DOT.

The DOT assigns priority rankings to each bridge in the state based on its condition and traffic volume. Priority rankings closer to one are higher priority, while all bridges ranked above 50 are in good condition and need no upgrades in the foreseeable future.

The Kolekole Bridge has a priority ranking of 30, the Singing Bridge’s ranking is 14, while the Ninole Bridge is ranked at 12.

Although the DOT lists the Kolekole and Ninole bridges’ conditions as “fair,” while the Singing Bridge is listed as “poor,” only the Ninole Bridge is slated for renovation this year.

According to a project listing on the DOT website, the Ninole Bridge and the nearby Hilea Stream Bridge — near the 57-mile marker — are to be rebuilt later this year. The project, estimated to cost up to $10 million, began accepting bids from contractors in early February.

An environmental assessment for the project lists numerous faults with the two bridges. Both bridges are rated for weight limits below the minimum standard of 36 tons, and neither meet design standards or seismic requirements. Furthermore, neither bridge is sufficiently wide, nor do their railings meet durability standards.

“Both bridges,” the assessment concluded, “are considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”

The poor state of the bridges was exacerbated in mid-February when the DOT reassessed how it determines weight limits. The Ninole and Hilea bridges are now rated for only 13 tons, where before they were rated for 27.

Shelly Kunishige of the DOT’s public affairs office said the reassessment came about by taking into account heavier truckloads, based on federal recommendations.

A third bridge also was affected by the weight limit reassessment. The Waiaka Stream Bridge near the 59-mile marker on Highway 19 was re-rated for 15 tons, before Edwin Sniffen, deputy director of the DOT’s highways division, announced that the bridge was instead rated for 18 tons.

The Waiaka Stream Bridge is not in the state’s top 50 priority bridges and is listed in “good” condition.

Kunishige said when the Hilea and Ninole bridges are rebuilt, the new structures will conform to weight-limit standards.

The other two high-priority bridges on the island, however, have no definite plans for future repairs, Kunishige said.

No plans exist in any form for the Kolekole Bridge and, while a project to address the Singing Bridge is seeking funding, Kunishige could not say what the project would entail, nor how much it would cost.

Meanwhile, three bridge-related projects on county-operated roads are expected to proceed this year.

Barett Otani, information and education specialist for the county’s Department of Public Works, said a $1.6 million project to repair erosion damage to the Hakalau Stream Bridge is underway and expected to be completed in April. The Waima‘au‘au Stream Bridge, whose steel beams have corroded over time, will be replaced at a cost of approximately $1.5 million.

Finally, a culvert-replacement project on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona will involve a replacement bridge, which would accommodate new bike lanes and raised sidewalks. Bidding on that project is expected to begin this summer.

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