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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 7, 2002

Waimanalo shops lose only access road

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

WAIMANALO — Some businesses suffered their worst setback since 9/11 yesterday when the state began a $1.3 million rockfall protection project that closed the only road through Waimanalo.

Hawai'i's Hidden Treasures manager Jaeim Kang said the store usually has 50 to 60 tour bus customers, now lost to closure of Kalaniana'ole Highway at Makapu'u.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Right now, at 3 o'clock, my count for today could actually be slightly less than my worst day of 9/11," said Wayne Nielsen, general manager of Sea Life Park, the community's largest employer. "At best, it would equal it."

From 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, Sea Life Park is now a virtual dead-end on Kalaniana'ole Highway, just shy of the spot where construction is under way.

People can still reach the park by driving over the Pali. But for eight hours a day, no one but emergency vehicles will be able to take the usual route from Honolulu through Hawai'i Kai.

Tourists were a rarity in his surf shop yesterday, said Toni Blanchard, owner of Point Break.

"But it's OK, because we had local people come in to support us," he said. "I went to Keneke's (diner) and they said they were bored."

Everyone agrees the project is necessary.

For decades, the community has pleaded with the state Department of Transportation to address a problem of rocks and debris landing on the highway at Makapu'u.

The state initiated a project this year and was to begin construction next February.

But the community pressed for an earlier start date after an Oct. 15 landslide dumped a truckload of material, closing the highway for a day as the state checked for more hazards.

The project could last six weeks.

In the first three weeks, the highway will be closed daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Motorists will be turned around near the Hawai'i Kai Golf Course entrance from the west and just past the Makapu'u Beach parking lot from the east during the closure hours.

In the first week, work crews will line the road with steel plates and begin drilling blasting holes, said Marilyn Kali, Transportation Department spokeswoman.

Next week, the contractor will remove rocks and blast six unstable rock outcroppings.

Cleanup will take place in the final week.

Installation of netting and chain link fencing will follow, Kali said, and one lane will remain open during that work.

Although the road closure has cut his lifeline, Nielsen said he expects to keep everyone employed by adjusting hours and offering special kama'aina rates.

"I have good, loyal people," he said. "We just have to parallel our work hours with the number of people that come through the door."

Jaeim Kang, manager of Hawai'i's Hidden Treasures, laid off three people and is thinking of adjusting her hours.

"Even 9/11 we didn't lay off anybody," Kang said. "For me it's worse than 9/11."

Kang said she would take a couple of days to evaluate the situation. Two buses stopped at the shop before the road closed yesterday morning, and she was hoping other buses would make the backtrack. If not, she'll close early.

"Not even a rental car is here — nothing," Kang said.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com or 234-5266.