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Wilson Tunnel repair work to take another 2 months

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    The town-bound side of the Wilson Tunnels.

Town-bound commuters who use the Likelike Highway will likely have to cope with at least two months of repair work to the Wilson Tunnel, including full town-bound overnight closures once the replacement materials arrive on-island, state transportation officials. 

The tunnel, which sees about 9,500 commuters during the morning rush hour, has been down to one lane town-bound since last Friday, when inspectors discovered eight broken stainless steel rods that help support the ceiling. Since then engineers have found 22 more “disconnected” rods after inspecting hundreds of rods through the entire tunnel, Ed Sniffen, the state Department of Transportation’s deputy director for the Highways Division, said in a media briefing Friday. 

Nonetheless, Sniffen said, the tunnel remains safe. “We wanted to make sure that we found the broken rods and we fix those broken rods right now,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that none of the portions of the ceiling fell on any of the motoring public. That’s why we shut everything down, so that we could assess that.” 

Workers have already installed wooden beams to reinforce the tunnel ceiling while the work proceeds. The DOT is still trying to determine what caused the rods to break — they were found to be undamaged during the tunnel’s last full inspection in 2013, Sniffen said. However, officials believe that strong vibrations from the air that moves through a shaft above the tunnel ceiling might have stressed the rods. “Once one of them failed, it put stress on the next and the next,” Sniffen said. 

It could take up to four weeks for the replacement rods to arrive and then an additional four weeks to complete the repairs, Sniffen said. Once the rods arrive DOT will likely close both lanes of the town-bound tunnel from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. to keep the repairs moving, he said. 

While the work continues, the speed limit through the townbound lanes is 25 mph. 

The DOT is considering contraflowing lanes to allow more town-bound commuters to travel through the tunnel during the morning rush but it hasn’t made a final decision, according to department officials. 

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