By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
State transportation officials are already asking drivers to slow down over the Umauma Bridge.
Soon, they may also ask them to wait their turn.
To reduce the load on the ailing 278-foot span, the state Department of Transportation is planning to install temporary traffic lights on either side of the Highway 19 bridge near Hakalau to limit access to one vehicle at a time, DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said.
The move would follow other measures the state has taken recently after crews last month found deterioration on the lateral supports to be more extensive than anticipated.
A 25 mph speed limit also has been enacted, Sluyter said, as well as a ban on oversized loads.
A DOT spokesman late last month said state crews began making the emergency repairs.
Sluyter said Tuesday that the state may still be in the assessment phase.
“I don’t think actual (repair) work has started,” she said.
The repairs are expected to take between three and six months, Sluyter said. It’s unclear how much they will cost.
They will be followed by a more extensive $37.2 million rehabilitation project already planned for the 102-year-old bridge.
It’s unclear when traffic lights would be installed, if they are not up already.
Sluyter said motorists should not be concerned about using the bridge, part of the only direct link between Hilo and Hamakua.
“We do ask the public to please abide by the weight restrictions and speed restrictions,” she said.
“They need to follow the restrictions, and they should be fine.”
The bridge was labeled structurally deficient in 2007 due to corrosion of the steel truss towers.
The rehabilitation work, to be done by Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., will involve the construction of concrete support towers within the existing steel towers, widening of the bridge deck and roadway shoulders to 44 feet, and installation of a new concrete railing.
The state is covering 20 percent of the project’s cost. The federal government is covering the rest.
The contractor, also expected to make the emergency repairs, was given a notice to proceed on the main project earlier this month.
The bridge, near the 16-mile marker, was built in 1911 to support railroad tracks over the Umauma Stream.
Previously, the bridge had been retrofitted against earthquakes.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.