Maui News

Hanawana Community Cut Off Following March Rains

March 19, 2012, 2:55 PM HST
* Updated March 19, 3:18 PM
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Hanawana bridge. Photo courtesy Sen. J. Kalani English.

By Wendy Osher

Heavy rains in East Maui earlier this month undermined the Hanawana Bridge, cutting off transit for an estimated 40 residents since March 9.

“Everyone’s been helping everyone else out,” said Hanawana resident Keith Douglas in a phone interview today.  He described the situation as “troublesome” in terms of getting to and from work, and being cut off from the main Hana Highway.

While residents can walk across the bridge, it cannot support the weight of vehicles; so individuals with cars stuck on either side of the collapse have been coordinating travel in and out of the community among themselves.

Just a couple of days ago, the roadway reportedly suffered further collapse when one motorist attempted to cross the undermined bridge in a vehicle.


The drop-off from the bridge to the streambed below has been described as anywhere from 45 to 100 feet.

Hanawana bridge. Photo courtesy Sen. J. Kalani English.


“It was built 100 years ago for horse and buggies,” said Douglas.  At the time, it was built up from the streambed and filled in to create the current-day land bridge.

The bridge was one of several roadways that suffered storm damage in East Maui–another being Uakea Road below the Hana Fire and Police Station that cut off direct access to one or two families.

Authorities say the Uakea Road individuals can still get to their properties through an alternate route.


When Sen. J. Kalani English of East Maui learned of the trapped residents on the day of the storm, he immediately booked a flight the same day from Honolulu where he was working at the legislature.

“I wanted to give them assurances that someone out there was going to meet with them,” said English.

English, who also owns a home in East Maui said he was saddened and concerned by the news.  “I’ve been through some really bad storms in Hana, and I knew this one was a bad one–there was hail, and roofs were blown off.”

Hanawana bridge. Photo courtesy Sen. J. Kalani English.

In an afternoon visit on March 9, Sen. English, accompanied by Maui County Public Works Director, David Goode assessed the damage.

“My concern is for the structural integrity of the bridges; that potential landslides are stabilized; and areas that need fixing get fixed quickly.”

On the afternoon of March 9, Sen. English traveled to Hanawana with county Public Works Director, David Goode to assess the situation.

Cloudiness over jurisdiction, and classification of the area as a “road in limbo”, created further frustration for some residents, but quick action by Maui officials appears to be expediting the process.

“The road is neither County nor State but we are pledged to help the residents in any case,” said County Communications Director Rod Antone from the Mayor’s office.

Goode, who sought and received approval from Mayor Alan Arakawa to proceed with repairs, said he hopes the county will start clearing work next week.

Hanawana bridge. Photo courtesy Sen. J. Kalani English.

Sen. English said actual repairs could get underway within the next couple of weeks or take as long as eight months depending on if EIS waivers are granted.

“Thank God for David Goode and Alan Arakawa for stepping forward,” said Sen. English, who noted that the county will take the lead on the project, while he works with the state on finding a way to reimburse them.

“Our first estimate to repair the road runs about $240,000,” said County Public Works Director David Goode; but he said, “Until we clear it out and see what is there, its almost impossible to guess.”

Total damages for the Hana area are still be tabulated by the State Civil Defense agency and the Hawaii Department of Transportation.

“My hope is that the bridge will be fixed sooner rather than later,” said Douglas.

Sen. English praised the residents of Hanawana for rallying together during the storm to secure property and ensure safety before government crews could reach the isolated community.

“Rest assured,” he said, “we will fix this road.”

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