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Pali opens to traffic

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    Workers were tethered to safety lines yesterday as they worked to secure steel mesh to a hillside. The mesh will hold dirt on the cliff and prevent it from sliding to the Pali Highway pavement below.

  • The highway reopens ahead of schedule after crews finish securing the hillside to prevent landslides.
    Workers, above, prepared to move a pile of dirt yesterday that was cleared from the landslide area on the Kailua-bound lanes of Pali Highway.
    A worker scraped away loose dirt and rock.

State transportation officials have good news for Windward drivers: Hillside repair work on Pali Highway was finished ahead of schedule yesterday, and the highway reopened to regular traffic at 5:40 p.m.

Crews from general contractor Goodfellow Bros. Inc. had been clearing debris around the clock from the hillside near the hairpin turn, and the foreman hadn’t slept since work began Friday night, said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"We are happy to report that we are way ahead of schedule," Meisenzahl said yesterday as workers continued to clear the hillside and lay steel mesh designed to prevent landslides. "They just got all that rock and vegetation out of here ahead of time. They’ve been working real hard."

This weekend, drivers were stopped at Waokanaka Street on the town side of Pali Highway and at Castle Junction on the Kailua side. But city buses and emergency vehicles were allowed to pass.

Pali Highway originally was going to be shut down from 8 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. today. The Kailua-bound lanes then were supposed to be closed from today through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Crews began removing 22 truckloads of dirt, rocks and vegetation following a Feb. 28 landslide involving a 30-by-30-foot section of the hillside on the Kailua side of the Pali Tunnels, Meisenzahl said.

DOT engineers then determined that another 40-foot section above the original landslide also needed to be cleared, in addition to an even larger, adjacent 70-by-80-foot section, Meisenzahl said.

The additional work meant that another 76 truckloads of dirt and debris — about 1,000 cubic yards — had to be cleared.

Workers have been separating the dirt from the vegetation to reuse the soil at the Waimanalo Gulch Landfill, Meisenzahl said.

Meisenzahl apologized for the disruption.

"We know this has been a huge inconvenience to the people on the Windward side of Oahu in Kailua and Waimanalo and Kaneohe," he said. "It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and a lot of people would like to hit the beach."

Construction of Pali Highway was finished in the mid-1950s and required a stream to be diverted, Meisenzahl said.

But water could be seen yesterday gushing from the basalt rock that workers were covering with steel mesh.

"They diverted the stream when they built the Pali Highway," Meisenzahl said, "but Mother Nature had other ideas. Water was getting between the solid rock basalt and all the dirt and rocks and vegetation between it, causing rockfalls."

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