Photos: Courtesy of Sue Boynton
UPDATE: DEMOLISHED IN 2010
The Wainiha Stream Bridges were demolished as a result of structural failure from overloaded vehicles exceeding the bridge weight limit.
LISTED AS ENDANGERED IN 2007
Article Written By: Michael Keany, HONOLULU Magazine
What were they?
A group of single-lane wooden timber bridges crossing the Wainiha Stream near Hanalei on Route 560. Since their construction in 1957, the low-profile, white-painted bridges have become an integral element of the rural character of the district, which is listed on both the Hawai‘i and National Register of Historic Places.
What threatened them?
The bridges are indisputably in terrible shape. State Department of Transportation inspectors have found heavy corrosion on the steel girders as well as rotting of some of the timbers. In fact, one of the bridges has already been replaced with a utilitarian-looking prefabricated modular steel bridge. DOT spokesperson Scott Ishikawa says the remaining two bridges are slated for demolition in mid-2009. “Temporary single-lane Acrow bridges will be installed, which will provide us some time to come up with a permanent bridge design that is safe and something the community is happy with,” he says.
What could have been done?
The problem is that the community is happy with the existing bridges. Susan Tasaki from the State Historic Preservation Division, as well as local community groups such as the Hanalei Road Committee, are pushing to repair and reinforce the structures instead of tearing them down. “These bridges should be repaired, replacing the existing materials in kind,” says Tasaki. “They’re not supposed to replace it with concrete. Nothing in the guidelines allows that.” Tasaki says the situation in Hanalei is indicative of a larger problem throughout Hawai‘i. Over the next six years, the DOT plans to spend $250 million replacing 40 bridges across the state, many of them in Windward O‘ahu. It will be up to local communities to make sure that the unique qualities of their area bridges aren’t lost in the process.