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Hawaii County Civil Defense officials have announced that the Chain of Craters Road, an old seven-mile road already covered by once-molten rock, will become a new emergency access road for Puna residents.
According to the officials, predictions from the volcano scientists claim that the lava from K? lauea volcano could reach the highway 130 in Pahoa in 20 days and then to the alternate routes of Railroad Avenue and Government Beach Road.
Although the lava's advancing rate has slowed, it has not stopped. So, there is no other option than the urgency to restore the road. The alternative route being built will help the lower Puna residents who will be losing access to the rest of Hawaii Island.
Chain of Craters Road has been crossed by lava several times, including during the eruptions in 1969-71 and 1972-74. About eight miles of the coastal section of Chain of Craters Road is covered by lava, around 40 feet in some spots. It hasn't been completely operational for the past 37 years.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said, "In the past when we've re-built roads we've had an issue with our equipment operators, where they've had tires melting and things like that. So certainly lots of challenges building on active lava flow".
A first D9 bulldozer was delivered on Tuesday, which will begin to build an alternative route connecting the Highway 130 Kalapana Junction all the way up through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Highway 11, or Volcano Road - then over to Kea'au and eventually into Hilo.
The estimated cost for the road is about $8 million. It will be only open to residents, and not visitors, as officials don't have the resources to operate it 24 hours a day.
Officials say currently no evacuation plan is required and if necessary, the area residents will be given adequate notice for evacuation.