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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:28 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Businesses feel pinch of Makapu'u road closure

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jaeim Kang, manager of Hawai'i's Hidden Treasures in Waimanalo, was miles away from the Makapu'u Point construction project today, but she could feel its impact like a jackhammer on rock.

Business was practically dead.

"Right now, the whole shopping mall looks like a ghost town," Kang said just before 10 a.m. "Even yesterday about this time, we had at least three large buses and four or five small buses."

It was no surprise, though. Merchants along this stretch of coastline has been nervously waiting for the state Department of Transportation to begin a $1.3 million project to stabilize the point a three week job that will close Kalaniana'ole Highway for eight hours a day.

The highway will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through Nov. 27 while crews remove loose rocks and install a safety net.

Today, two tour buses arrived an hour earlier than normal at Kang's business, which is in the Waimanalo Shopping Center, she said.

She's afraid that may be all the business she gets each day until the project is finished. Kang had to lay off three employees.

The rockfall mitigation project, originally scheduled for February, comes after decades of complaints by area residents about the danger from falling debris and, most recently, an incident on Oct. 15 that sent a truckload of rocks crashing onto the road.

After the latest incident the community grew more vocal and transportation officials decided to start the project early.

Wayne Nielsen, manager for Sea Life Park, said his parking lot was nearly empty this morning, but said it was too early to draw conclusions.

"We have not received any trolleys or any tour or travel buses, and by now we would have had several," Nielsen said about 10 a.m.

He is expecting only one-third of his normal bus traffic. Closing the road is important, he said, but closing it for three weeks will hurt him.

"Three weeks will have a devastating affect on my business," he said. "But if it lasts longer than three weeks, I will have to go to a plan I haven't wanted to think about before this time."

Employees would have to be laid off, he said.

In all, the project could last up to six weeks.

Motorists will be turned around near the Hawai'i Kai Golf Course entrance and just past the Makapu'u Beach parking lot.

The state has said emergency vehicles will have access through the construction site.

During the first week the crew will line the road with steel plates and begin drilling blasting holes, said Marilyn Kali, DOT spokeswoman. From Nov. 11-22, the contractor will remove rocks and blast six unstable rock outcroppings. Cleanup will take place in the final week.

Work to install netting and chain link fencing will follow, Kali said.

At that time only one lane of the highway is expected to be shut down.