Damaged Hawaii roadway reopens
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Mary Vorsino
The city reopened Round Top Drive yesterday, ending a twice-extended, 20-month closure that frustrated dozens of residents forced to take the long way around the mountain — via Tantalus Drive — to their homes.
"It's a sigh of relief, obviously," said Jim Shon, president of the Friends of Tantalus. The closure, he added, "not only inconvenienced people, it's made them very nervous in case there's an emergency."
The city closed Round Top Drive just before the hairpin turn — mauka of 'Aina Lani Way — in April 2006 after heavy rains and flooding washed out four sections of the roadway and weakened others. An eight-month planning phase ensued, and crews started work on the $6 million project in January.
The closure added 25 minutes to some residents' commutes.
Emergency vehicles also have had to go the long way.
And when Tantalus Drive was closed — because of a downed tree or car accident — residents were stuck.
"I want to say to the community how much we appreciate their patience and understanding," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann, speaking at a news conference on Round Top yesterday afternoon. "We know the community has waited for this road to open for a long time."
The road reopened about 3 p.m. Hannemann said the city did not notify residents of the opening because of fears it might get called off at the last minute. Even so, a few residents showed up at the news conference after hearing about it through word of mouth.
Rick Ralston, a longtime Tantalus resident, documented the event with a video camera. He wore a wide smile as yellow caution tape draped across the road was taken down.
"It has taken some patience," said Ralston, who lives just past the closure.
Ralston said he and many other residents were especially worried about the possibility of an emergency — such as a fire, or even someone suffering a heart attack — coinciding with the closure of both Round Top and Tantalus drives.
The city kicked in $2.6 million for the reconstruction of Round Top Drive, $3 million came from FEMA, and state Civil Defense pitched in $350,000.
When the city started the work Jan. 8, crews had hoped to be finished in six months, city officials said. But during the work, inspectors found longitudinal cracks in the road. The discovery pushed the reopening to September.
An additional inspection found problems with a retaining wall along the road.
Eugene Lee, director of the city Department of Design and Construction, said though the city is finished with Round Top Drive, residents could still have to endure closures as the state works to stabilize a slope above the roadway.
Reach Mary Vorsino at email@example.com.
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