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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 22, 2006

Kailua sewer work nearly done, finally

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By Eloise Aguiar and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

A motorist negotiates the many obstacles along South Kalaheo Avenue in Kailua as work by contractor Frank Coluccio Construction on a sewer project nears an end.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Construction workers work on a "jacking pit," which is used to introduce the microtunneling device in the proper position for digging. The years-long work on Kalaheo Avenue is about to come to an end.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KAILUA After seven years of work, most of the city's Kalaheo Avenue sewer-repair project is expected to be completed this month four years longer and for $22.5 million more than first projected.

The sewer-rehabilitation work was plagued by problems ranging from ground that was hard to dig through to contractor lawsuits and sewer line breaks and two changes in contractors, one of which resulted in a two-year delay. When the city started the project in 1999, officials estimated that it would take three years to complete and cost $36 million. The cost is now set at $58.5 million.

But Craig Nishimura, deputy director for the city Design and Construction Department, said the city learned some good lessons from the big, expensive and lengthy project that has disrupted traffic on a major Kailua thoroughfare for most of a decade.

It took three contractors to complete the project, so now the city requires contractors to provide evidence that they have the expertise needed before they even bid on a job. "We really make sure that the people who bid on the job are the best qualified to do the job, especially for technical jobs like this one with extensive microtunneling," Nishimura said.

And the city has made communication with the community a big priority on major projects, establishing telephone hot lines and a regular newsletter so those affected know what to expect. Nishimura said the public outreach involves telling people about the progress and the problems of a major project.

Even though residents don't always like what they hear, the information helps, he said. "They know that it has to be done," he said. "If we keep them informed, people become more understanding."

LINE CORRODED

The work was needed to replace an extremely corroded line that experienced a major collapse in February 1998. Rehabilitating the sewers in the area also allowed the city to add flow capacity to help prevent wet-weather sewage spills when rainwater leaks into the system and overflows manholes and pipes.

As for the work that remains, Nishimura said he does not anticipate further snags.

"There's no real hang-ups," he said. "The main trunk line is flowing, so that's pretty much all done. They're doing a lot of paving work and restoration work on Kalaheo Avenue. There's some Board of Water Supply work and some small sewer lines that still need to be installed."

About one-third of Kalaheo Avenue from Mokapu Boulevard to Palapu Street is paved, but access is still limited. More paving is planned for a stretch along Palapu Street near St. Anthony's Church and School. Work is still under way from Kailua Road to Ku'ulei Road.

Nishimura said if all goes well, crews will be off the road and paving will be completed by the end of the month. There is still some work to be done on Kailua Road, however, and that could continue until March or April, he said.

RESIDENTS RELIEVED

Residents who endured noisy, dusty and sometimes smelly conditions are pleased to see the project nearing completion, said Joseph Harding, who serves on the Kailua Neighborhood Board and lives near Kalaheo Avenue. Noting that the work at times blocked street access, frustrated drivers and damaged property, Harding said some neighbors are now cracking sarcastic jokes about the project's schedule.

"You mention it and they start laughing because it's been so long and we've been told so many things for so long," Harding said. Still, he said, he feels good about the project coming to an end.

Some businesses took a hit from the early construction because it limited access to shops on Kailua Road. Even so, Don Dymond, owner of Kalapawai Market, lauded the third contractor, Frank Coluccio Construction Co..

"It's really a pleasure to see progress," Dymond said. "They've been giving updates and the updates have been right on. It looks like they're winding down and could be out of there per their latest projection, which is shortly after the first of the year."

Nishimura said city departments also worked together on this project, so the Board of Water Supply scheduled its work this year on its water lines on the heels of the sewer work. Even though that meant the construction lasted a little longer, it meant "we wouldn't have to dig up the road more than once and disrupt the people again," Nishimura said.

SPEEDING WORRIES

Switching from a road with very little vehicle traffic to a freshly paved road will be an adjustment to residents as well as those who bike, walk and run in the area.

Nishimura said some residents are talking about concerns already. If it becomes a speeding issue, "we may have to slow people down," he said, by talking with police about the best way to keep it safe.

Honolulu police Capt. Greg Lefcourt said officers will monitor the area as the barricades come down. He said the department will look at the possibility of posting a sign that clocks the speed of vehicles along the road to remind drivers to slow down through the shoreside neighborhood.

Despite the good news regarding Kalaheo Avenue, Nishimura said Kailua residents shouldn't expect sewer construction crews to go away completely.

Another major sewer project is about to begin. It calls for the installation of about 9,000 lineal feet of 8- to 36-inch-diameter pipe by a combination of traditional trench technology and microtunneling. Nishimura said those lines are deteriorated, inadequate and have sagged.

He said the contractor must use the less-intrusive microtunneling method to minimize inconvenience to the Enchanted Lake Shopping Center and other nearby businesses. The project runs from Akahai Street to the Kailua Heights Pump Station via Keolu Drive and Wana'ao Road. The cost is estimated at $31 million, with construction expected to begin in April.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com and Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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