Hawaii County Given Extension For Work On Lava-Damaged Road

Sep 23, 2019

HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii County has received a federal government extension to complete reconstruction of a highway that was severely damaged during last year's Kilauea volcanic eruption, officials said.

The county Department of Public Works has three additional months to finish its reconstruction of Highway 132, The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Sunday. Meeting the deadline will make the project eligible for full federal funding reimbursement, officials said.

Work to repair the road began June 10 with an original deadline of Oct. 5. Road work has been slowed, however, by areas of dense lava rock and pockets of extreme heat up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, officials said.

The department believes work on the Big Island road will be completed before the new Federal Highway Administration deadline of Jan. 5.

The department anticipates the highway will open in November. By that time "we expect to complete all emergency temporary road repairs, including grading of the roadway and shoulders, asphalt concrete base, striping, markers and signage," said spokeswoman Denise Laitinen.

The massive volcanic eruption in May 2018 destroyed more than 700 homes in the Puna area and covered portions of the highway.

Road temperatures have been steadily dropping and continue to cool. As of Sept. 13, temperatures were down to 147 degrees Fahrenheit, although in some pockets there were embankment temperatures around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, Laitinen said.

The target maximum temperature to install asphalt is 150 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning "road temperatures have already reached acceptable levels for paving," Laitinen said.