WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) – Long stretches of the usually majestic Waikiki Beach will be turned into roads for dump trucks and other heavy machines over the next few months while the City makes changes to its plans for replenishing the beach between the Duke Kahanamoku Statue and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The major detour for the project comes after officials discovered unexpected issues with the mechanical blower used to transport sand down the beach. Catch Brooks Baehr's story on Video with Hawaii News Now.
Initial plans called for the pumping of sand from underwater reserves into a holding area on the beach, where it would then be blown the rest of the way down the beach to help widen an area about a third of a mile long. The blower, however, doesn't have the necessary power to get the job done, and the contractors are resorting to ‘Plan B.'
Heavy machines will load the trucks with sand from the pumping area. The trucks will then drive – not down Kalakaua Avenue, but along the beach itself – the half-mile distance to the section needing to be widened.
The scheduled work will completely shut down portions of Waikiki Beach seven days a week between 7 a.m. and noon, beginning on March 12th. The beach will reopen during the afternoons.
The change in plans will impact a tourism industry that set records in January, with February numbers looking high as well. Hotels are already notifying wholesalers, and say they'll help explain to guests why the project is necessary and how they can work around the mess to make the most of their trip.
"We're being very transparent. We've got a problem," said Jerry Westenhaver, General Manager of the Hyatt Waikiki. "And we need to be honest about it but at the same time help mitigate it where people can still go to enjoy themselves."
Tourism officials hope to send a unified message in visitors to Waikiki, admitting that parts of Waikiki Beach will resemble a construction zone, but only a small part; around only 20% of the beach will be affected, and most of it will continue to be open around the clock.
Mike McCartney, President of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, believes the project, despite the changes, will still be worth the effort.
"The little disruptions we're going through, the little disruptions that we are going through are worth the long term benefits," said McCartney. "The beach needs to be restored. We're very happy. We're confident with what DLNR is doing and it's going to be a better Waikiki Beach once this is done."
The project is slated to cost $2.2 million dollars, and DLNR Chairman William Aila says the change in plans will not add to that amount or extend its length. The replenishing project is scheduled to finish in April.
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