The latest news regarding the Kauai road opening was in today’s (April 11th) Garden Island Newspaper. As many of you know, the road west of Hanalei Bay to Ke’e has been closed since the April 2018 Kauai flood. Many people, residents and guests, have been anxiously awaiting its reopening. Lumahai Beach, Tunnels, Ke’e and the Kalalau Trail have been closed off for over a year to all except the people who live in Wainiha and Haena. A convoy schedule has been in effect for these residents.
But, before you get too excited, the announcement that there will be a tentative reopening on or about May 1st is not all that it seems. The repairs to numerous landslide and road collapse areas will be largely complete by that date. But, the continuing restrictions will make actually using the highway challenging for both residents and visitors.
- The checkpoint near Hanalei that has existed throughout the convoy system’s duration will remain operational. Staff may discourage tourists from continuing, but they will not prohibit anyone from using the road.
- Heavy traffic congestion is anticipated as work on three single-lane bridges (separate from the highway repairs) between Hanalei and Haena will continue. The Department of Transportation will have flagged access through each of the three worksites and a flier will be distributed to tourists warning in large black letters: EXPECT SIGNIFICANT TRAFFIC DELAYS.
- For the first month the highway is open, Haena State Park, including Ke’e Beach and the Kalalau Trail, will remain closed entirely as the completion of reconstruction takes place which will eventually cut the number of visitors allowed to go there from 2,000 to 900 each day. A newly rebuilt parking lot, with a capacity limited to 100 cars with spots available to tourists by reservation only, will open in June.
- Limahuli Garden will remain closed, with parking prohibited.
- Illegal parking anywhere within the no parking zone will incur a $200 parking fine as a minimum penalty.
You might be asking yourself, along with the DOT workers and residents of Wainiha and Haena, why is the Kauai road opening happening before the area is fully able to handle the influx of people? The answer lies in the funding. The majority of the monies used for this project came from the federal government. Once the work is done, the road is deemed safe, and officially reopens, full public access must be permitted.
The Good News
A shuttle service, planned by the nonprofit, Hanalei Initiative, is scheduled to start operating between Waipa (west of Hanalei) and Ke’e Beach on June 4th. Eventually, the Waipa parking lot will be replaced with a permanent park-and-ride lot near the Foodland store in Princeville. Shuttle tickets will be $11 for tourists and $2 for locals. This will hopefully alleviate some of the traffic congestion and parking frustration. No one wants to go back to the way it was before the 2018 flood. It is not a perfect plan, but it is a start at managing the enormous number of people who want to see the north end of Kauai. Can you blame them?
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