Alii Drive culvert replacement project nearing start

  • Traffic backs up on Alii Drive. (Chelsea Jensen / West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Officials have slated a community meeting to prepare the public for the upcoming replacement of a deteriorating culvert on Alii Drive, a project that’s likely to snarl traffic on the main thoroughfare for months.

Department of Public Works Project Engineer Ben Ishii and contractor Isemoto Contracting Co. Ltd. will discuss the scope of the project and what area residents can expect during construction of the new, wider culvert and bridge over the Waiaha Drainage way located about 1.5 miles south of Kailua Village.


The two-hour meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the West Hawaii Civic Centers Community Hale (Building B). Those residing in neighborhoods near the culvert are encouraged to attend.

Denise Laitinen, DPW information &education specialist, said the project is slated to get underway within the coming weeks. Tree trimming, which will not impact traffic, is expected to start May 20.

The county, she said, anticipates the project will be complete by May 2021.

Isemoto Contracting won the $8.97 million contract to change out and expand the 82-year-old culvert, also referred to as a bridge, earlier this year. The company got the go-ahead to begin preparation work back in March.

The double-cell culvert bridging Waiaha Drainageway is adjacent to Kona Tiki Hotel. The Federal Highways Administration is picking up 80% of the cost, or about $7.2 million, while the county will foot the remainder.

The new structure will include a wider bridge with two 5-foot-wide bike lanes and two 7-foot-wide raised sidewalks. It’ll be 49 feet wide total, providing more room than the current bridge that comprises two 10-foot lanes and a narrow shoulder.

Though described as “structurally deficient” and “functionally obsolete” and near the end of its design life in a final Environmental Assessment for the project, bridge engineers have deemed it safe for use.

It’s been reinforced over the years, most recently after flooding in September 2015, but it needs to be replaced after preliminary design work determined it cannot cope with repairs, maintenance and upgrades. The new structure will also have a wider and longer culvert structure capable of handling more water flow.


The county had worked to address the culvert in 1998, but the project was put on hold because of financial constrictions. Current efforts to replace it started around 2014.

Those that require special accommodations or auxiliary aid and/or services to participate in the meeting (i.e. sign language interpreter, large print) or for more details on the meeting, should contact Denise Laitinen, Department of Public Works information and education specialist, at (808) 961-8499.

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