Businesses worried as emergency repair work begins on Pensacola Street

Pensacola Street


Several lanes of Pensacola Street were closed Thursday between Kapiolani Boulevard and Waimanu Street for emergency repairs.

Drivers and bicyclists are encouraged to use alternate routes and expect delays.

The closure will last for several months until temporary shoring is installed.

Cones are in place 24 hours a day until the project is finished. But even after this work is done, it’s only a temporary fix. The city said the area will have to undergo more repairs in the future.

Robert Kroning, with the city department of Design and Construction, said box culverts, or underground storm water drains, that were constructed in 1971 have gotten to the point that without immediate repairs, the road could begin to give way.

“More likely is what we will find if we don’t do something right now is the roadway will just start to crumble and cave in where the rebar gets stretched and it will start dipping to where we will notice the problem happening,” Kroning explained.

There is enough room for a single lane of cars to pass between the damaged culverts, but buses and trucks have to find another route while the repair work is being done.

Bus routes heading to Ala Moana are being re-routed to avoid Pensacola and Waimanu streets, but the city says the location of bus stops are not affected.

Steel plates allow traffic to continue along Pensacola Street crossing Kapiolani Boulevard and Waimanu Street. They’re also being used to provide local access to businesses along the affected stretch of Pensacola.

Kroning said he will work to make sure there’s still access to stores like the Wedding Ring Shop.

“The crossroads will also remain open so people will be able to use the intersections to go across there,” Kroning said.

Businesses we spoke with say they were notified of repairs Thursday morning, just before work was set to begin.

They didn’t want to go on camera, but said they’re worried customers will avoid the area altogether until work is finished.

Stephan Erhardt is a cook at Menya Musashi Ramen. He says he had to find parking a few blocks away.

“My boss texted me and said, ‘There’s construction going on. You’re going to have to park somewhere else,'” he said. “It’s already a tough location, so parking is hard enough as it is, especially for customers, right? It’s hard for them to find parking, now even more so. … It’s going to be tough for us, but what can you do?”

A city spokesman says the issue was discovered Tuesday afternoon and the emergency plan was developed Wednesday. The city says notification is happening simultaneously.

The city also says culverts are inspected for defects when issues arise, or when there are indications on roads or sidewalks that a closer look is needed.

According to Panos Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii, “they should have a minimum life of 30 years, not much maintenance, but anywhere between 30 and 50 years, they ought to be replaced.”

Prevedouros says there could be more culverts nearby that will eventually need repairs.

“Some of them are susceptible because Kakaako part of the time it’s under the water horizon, so a lot of them are under conditions that they lead to deterioration, faster deterioration,” he said.

The Department of Design and Construction issued an emergency procurement to initiate the emergency repairs.

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