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Story of an Engineer and a Highway

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If a single individual can be spotlighted for playing the most important role in building the new Pali Highway, it is John C. Myatt.

Myatt, Chief engineer of the State Highways Division, has been directly concerned with the construction of the Pali Highway since the project was first started in 1952.

The problems have been great. …

For the construction of the first set of tunnels, it was necessary to bring in an engineer from California, Anatole Eriman.

“We didn’t have any tunnel specialists in the Islands,” Myatt said.

State engineers were able to adopt Eriman’s plans for the second set of tunnels.

In building the tunnels, an interesting geological problem confronted the engineers.

Rain water, in draining into the interior of the mountain, collects in what is know as “perched” water dike formation.

If a dike containing this collected or “perched” water is punctured while a tunnel is being bored, a cave-in can result.

Engineers solved the problem by injecting pipes into the sections to be bored.

If “perched” water was present, it drained through the pipes, thus avoiding cave-ins.

The adobe-clay mixture of the road area between Reservoir No. 4 and the portals created another problem, Myatt said.

Equipment would get mired in the mud. This was solved by using the “sandwich” method developed in 1946 for constructing the Hamakua Coast road on the Big Island. …

To practically eliminate the danger of slides in the new highway area, the old Pali Road will serve as a “bench” to dispose some of the almost 400,000 gallons of water a day which seeps down and through the mountainside. …

Other benches — or steps — have been dug into the mountainside, allowing the water and debris to be channeled away from the highway.

Myatt, a civil engineer graduate from the University of Hawaii who started as a levelman in 1931 for the old Territorial Public Works department is “happy the job is almost done.”

“Within a year the final section from Kuakini Street to Wyllie Street will be finished,” he said.

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