Drivers who live on Oahu’s North Shore or Whitmore Village will now have four hours every weekday evening to make it across Karsten Thot Bridge.
On Monday the state Department of Transportation began opening the Haleiwa-bound lane of the bridge every weekday evening from 5 to 9 p.m. The state began a similar effort for morning commuters on Sept. 19, when the Honolulu-bound lane of the bridge was opened to traffic every weekday morning from 5 to 9 a.m.
Dean Harvest of the Wahiawa-Whitmore Village Neighborhood Board said he received an immediate response from drivers happy about the evening opening of the bridge.
"I've gotten at least a half a dozen emails already saying they really appreciate DOT opening it up," said Harvest.
The state was forced to unexpectedly close Karsten Thot Bridge Sept. 17 after vehicles weighing 10-tons or more repeatedly ignored a DOT request not to use the 80-year-old structure. Construction crews are currently removing 4,000 rivets on the bridge and replacing them with steel bolts, in addition to refurbishing or replacing steel beams. Once repairs are finished by the end of October, the bridge is expected to last another 10 to 20 years.
However, during a Monday meeting of the Wahiawa-Whitmore Village Neighborhood Board, Central Oahu resident Eddie Ramos questioned why the state was spending as much as $5 million to repair the bridge instead of building a new one.
DOT officials explained the extensive corrosion to the steel structure remained unknown until an inspection was conducted in July. DOT Deputy Director Jadine Urasaki said the governor’s office has already begun reviewing plans to build a new bridge, or conduct another round of repairs in the future.
She said the neighborhood board may get the chance to weigh-in on what course of action to take as soon as September of next year.
“So that’s when we come back out to the public, get the input (and) have the communication with you folks before we decide on what’s the best alternative for us,” said Urasaki.
Wahiawa businesses have been suffering since the bridge closure, with some restaurants reporting a drop in sales of 20 to 40 percent.
Meanwhile, what use to take drivers just a few minutes to get through Wahiawa, is now taking an average of 45 minutes or longer during peak morning and evening hours.