By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The state Department of Transportation has closed the Umauma Bridge to oversized loads as a contractor prepares to embark on a $37.2 million project to rehabilitate the 102-year-old span.
The Highway 19 bridge near Hakalau, already considered structurally deficient, became off limits to extra-heavy vehicles a week ago after surveys noted “deterioration on the lateral supports,” a DOT spokesman said in an email.
The spokesman refereed to the move as “precautionary” and said commuters don’t need to be concerned.
“It’s not that it’s getting worse,” he said, adding that the condition of the supports is “causing some concern.”
DOT crews are making repairs and the contractor hired to make the more extensive retrofits was given a notice to proceed on Thursday.
The rehabilitation work, to be done by Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., is expected to begin next week.
The project 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 a new concrete railing.
Most of the work will occur underneath the bridge, which will limit the impact to traffic.
The bridge was labeled structurally deficient in 2007 due to corrosion of the steel truss towers.
The 278-foot span, near the 16-mile marker, was built in 1911 to support railroad tracks over the Umauma Stream.
The bridge and towers were later widened to accommodate vehicle traffic, and was more recently retrofitted against earthquakes.
The state is covering 20 percent of the project’s cost while the federal government is covering the rest.
DOT awarded the contract nine or 10 months ago, according to the spokesman.
He wasn’t aware of any delays.
The closure to oversized vehicles is expected to be temporary.
It applies to single-axle loads over 22,500 pounds, tandem-axle loads exceeding 34,000 pounds and any vehicle weights over 88,000 pounds.
Mike Kaneda, operations manager for Hawaii Petroleum, said that closure will not impact his fuel deliveries up the Hamakua Coast.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.