Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hawaii’s Infrastructure Upkeep Ranks Last

Quoted in Honolulu Star Advertiser, Hawaii’s infrastructure upkeep ranks last in a financial website’s assessment, Nanea Kalani, October 10, 2017.

University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros said that while Hawaii’s aging infrastructure tends to fare poorly in national rankings, he was surprised the state landed in the bottom spot. He said Hawaii typically earns a D+ or D- grade on the American Society of Engineers’ infrastructure report card, which comes out every four years and evaluates such areas as roads, bridges, dams, airports, harbors and public transportation.

“We’ve been doing poorly, but what is very surprising is that we came in dead last. Obviously, it’s not encouraging — we have hit rock bottom,” said Prevedouros, chairman of the Civil Engineering Department at UH-Manoa.

Within the categories of the “Falling Apart” report, Hawaii had the highest percentage of dams in the country with “high-hazard potential” ratings, at 93 percent. According to the National Inventory of Dams maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 124 of the state’s 133 dams have been assigned the hazardous classification, indicating that failure or mis-operation is likely to cause loss of human life and economic and environmental losses.

Close to 70 percent of the dams in Hawaii are on privately owned land. A spokesman for the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which runs the state’s dam safety program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“That’s almost a given when you have earthen dams,” Prevedouros said of the high-hazard risk ratings. “It’s very difficult to know how the structures are performing without careful inspection.” He said most of the islands’ dams are old and in need of more maintenance and upkeep to ensure public health and safety. He cited Nuuanu Reservoir as a particularly risky dam given its close proximity to residential areas.

“It’s pretty clear that the state and the city do not pay much attention to the condition and the operation of the roads,” Prevedouros said. “They’re both in poor quality and operating poorly with a lot of congestion. Clearly, now the numbers show we are in a lose-lose situation, where we are spending the money on the wrong projects, and the big categories that affect the well-being of the population are being neglected.”