Public meeting slated for Alii Drive culvert project

KAILUA-KONA — Officials slated a community meeting to prepare the public for the upcoming replacement of a deteriorating culvert on Alii Drive in Kailua-Kona, a project likely to snarl traffic on the main thoroughfare for months.

County Department of Public Works Project Engineer Ben Ishii and contractor Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. will discuss the scope of the project and what area residents can expect during construction of the new, wider culvert and bridge over the Waiaha Drainageway located about 1.5 miles south of Kailua Village.

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The meeting is set for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, at the West Hawaii Civic Centers Community Meeting Hale (Building G). Those residing in neighborhoods near the culvert are encouraged to attend.

Denise Laitinen, Public Works information and education specialist, said the project is slated to get underway within the coming weeks. Tree trimming, which will not impact traffic, is expected to start May 20.

Laitinen said the county anticipates the project will be complete by May 2021.

Isemoto Contracting won the $8.97 million contract to change out and expand the 82-year-old culvert. The company got the go-ahead in March to begin preparation work.

The double-cell culvert bridging Waiaha Drainageway is adjacent to Kona Tiki Hotel. The Federal Highways Administration is picking up 80% of the cost, or about $7.2 million, while the county will foot the remainder.

The new structure will include a wider bridge with two 5-foot-wide bike lanes and two 7-foot-wide raised sidewalks. It will be a total of 49 feet wide, providing more room than the current bridge that comprises two 10-foot lanes and a narrow shoulder.

Though described as “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” and near the end of its design life in a final Environmental Assessment for the project, bridge engineers deemed it safe for use.

It’s been reinforced through the years, most recently after flooding in September 2015, but it needs to be replaced after preliminary design work determined it cannot cope with repairs, maintenance and upgrades. The new culvert will be wider and longer and capable of handling more water flow.

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The county worked to address the culvert in 1998, but the project was postponed because of financial constrictions. Current efforts to replace it started about 2014.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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