Umauma Bridge project ongoing; Contaminated soil, additional work, weather contribute to delay of completion

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The Umauma Bridge rehabilitation project is now scheduled to finish in March — about a year later than initially expected.

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The Umauma Bridge rehabilitation project is now scheduled to finish in March — about a year later than initially expected.

Shelly Kunishige, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said the project has been hampered by the removal of lead contaminated soil at the bridge’s base, the addition of new work, and wet weather.

The work started in mid-2013, requiring motorists to use a one-lane temporary bridge to cross the gulch on Highway 19 near Hakalau. At the time, it was estimated to cost $30.8 million.

Kunishige said $6.6 million was since added to the cost.

As of this month, she said the project is about 60 percent complete.

“Both piers are completed and the contractor is working on the two abutments,” Kunishige said. “The new steel girders,” which were added to the project, “have been fabricated and are on Oahu.”

Those will be shipped to Hawaii Island and installed after the abutments are completed.

She said the contractor, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., is precasting new bridge deck panels.

Valerie Poindexter, a Hawaii County Councilwoman representing Hamakua, said the delays have been frustrating to residents.

Because the temporary bridge is one lane, access alternates between Hilo- and Honokaa-bound traffic.

She said additional maintenance work on the highway adds to traffic delays.

“The state probably thought that the bridge would have been completed,” Poindexter said.

The bridge is 278 feet long and was constructed in 1911 to support railroad tracks over Umauma Stream.

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The bridge and towers were later widened to accommodate vehicle traffic.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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