Deck truss crossing the park
Photo taken by Christopher P. Becker 2006 Nov 25 http://polihale.com
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike (CC BY-SA)
BH Photo #246452
The highway alignment and the bridge trusses were both originally part of the Hilo Railroad, which received it's charter and began operating in 1899.
Between 1909 and 1913, Hilo Railroad extend the rail 33.5 miles [54 km] north and west of Hilo along the very rugged Hamakua coast. This extension included a bridge across the Kolekole creek. At the time, the construction of these 33 miles were, per mile, the most expensive railroad construction. This expense was too much and the Hilo Railroad was sold to bondholders and in 1916 reorganized an the Hawaii Consolidated Railway.
By 1946, freight from the sugar plantations, local passengers, and tourists provided the means for the HCR to emerge from it's finacial troubles.
Then on 1 April 1946, a tsunami caused by an earthquake near Alaska hit the coast. More than 150 lives were lost. Hilo was nearly washed away. And the railroad suffered. One of the three spans across the Wailuku was washed away. The center section of the steel trestle over the Kolekole was washed awy. Other bridges, trestles, and sections of line were damage or destroyed. HCR file for abandonment of the line shortly after the tsunami, and the adandonment was approved by the ICC in December of 1946.
The entire assets - right-of-way, bridges, buildings, and running stock - was offered to the Territory of Hawaii, but they refused so it was sold to a salvage company, Gilmore Steel and Supply Company for $81,000. Two years later, after realizing that with the railroad gone a better highway was needed, the Territory bought the right-of-way and remaining bridges from Gilmore Steel for 302,723.53. The current Hawaii Belt Rd is largly built on the railroad right-of-way. Remaining bridge and bridge parts were used in the construction of the highway bridges. While many of the bridges on this highway have a 1950's date, for some that is a rebuild date when the highway took over for the much earlier constructed railroad bridges.
Here at Kolekole Creek, county engineer E. Claude Moore designed and implemented a plan that used the two remaining Wailuku River trusses to replace the damage bridge over the creek valley. The single track, railroad through trusses were floated up the coast on barges, then lifted into place. The trusses were not wide enough for the highway, so the bridge deck was laid across the top of the trusses - thereby converting them from a through truss to a deck truss.
Truly, a most unusual bridge relocation project!
This bridge was recently upgraded to conform to current seismic standands using a cable and anchor method which seems to have done little to obscure or alter the orignial structure.