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Town-bound Pali Highway closed through Monday; Kailua-bound opening is pending

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  • Video by Craig T. Kojima and Jamm Aquino / and

    Hawaii Department of Transportation officials urge motorists to avoid Pali Highway in both directions. Three people were injured Monday when falling debris fell onto their vehicle.


    Debris from landslides Monday still littered lanes of the Pali Highway today. This is a view of the town-bound tunnel this morning.


    Kailua-bound traffic Monday was at a standstill at the intersection of Old Pali Road and Pali Highway as police rerouted all traffic due to a landslide near the Pali tunnels Monday afternoon.


    Despite the sunny weather Monday afternoon, dirt and rocks came sliding down the cliff-side in an area between the two tunnels.


    Windward bound traffic is seen on Likelike Highway this afternoon in Kalihi. With the closure of the Pali Highway, all traffic going to Kailua and Kaneohe has been diverted to either Likelike or the H-3.

10:30 p.m.

State Department of Transportation officials said the Honolulu-bound direction of Pali Highway is anticipated to be closed completely through Monday, while crews are working to temporarily open the Kailua-bound direction from 3 to 7 p.m. But the DOT said that won’t be possible until the debris and damaged portions of Old Pali Road are stabilized or/removed.

Pali Highway will stay closed to all, including emergency vehicles. An assessment late tonight indicated a portion of Old Pali Road above Pali Highway is shifting and poses additional risk to the highway, DOT said.

The damaged portion of Old Pali Road has already shifted 18 inches toward the highway, officials said. There is a potential that the roadway and additional debris may fall on the highway before DOT can start debris clearance.

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The state Department of Transportation is working to temporarily re-open the Kailua-bound lanes of the Pali Highway between 3 and 7 p.m. beginning Wednesday, but expects to keep the town-bound lanes closed through Monday because of three landslides on and above the Pali.

Transportation officials said this afternoon that the area will be monitored during the accessible hours for the Kailua-bound lanes and that Kailua-bound emergency vehicles will be escorted through the area.

They said that multiple landslides occurred in two areas since Monday: one was in the Kailua-bound direction after the second tunnel, while the second location was in between the two tunnels, affecting the town-bound lanes.

“Upon further inspection, there are several large boulders, some the size of a vehicle, that are at risk of falling on to the Honolulu-bound lanes,” transportation officials said in a news release this afternoon. “The Old Pali Road was also damaged in the landslide sending pieces of concrete down with the slide. The structure sustained significant cracks and damage and must be secured.”

The town-bound lanes will remain closed through at least Monday, they said, because crews must stabilize the hillside to prevent additional landslides, including from the Old Pali Road. After the hillside is stabilized, workers will clear the debris and large boulders from the highway.

“There is a risk that additional rocks and debris can fall,” DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said earlier Monday.

In the meantime, town-bound traffic is being detoured at Castle Junction, while Kailua-bound traffic is being turned around at Waokanaka Street. The Pali Lookout also remains closed, and state officials warn hikers to avoid the area.

The Pali closures created a logjam on the alternative routes — H-3, and the Likelike and Kalanianaole highways — this morning, and the traffic disruption is expected to continue as the work continues.

Motorists can check or the traffic feature in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s mobile app to check traffic conditions.

The DOT also will post updates on its Twitter account, @DOTHawaii and on its Hawaii Department of Transportation Facebook page.

Monday afternoon, a woman and two children were injured when falling debris fell onto their vehicle.

At 4:15 p.m., Emergency Medical Services transported a 40-year-old woman and two girls, ages 9 and 2, to a hospital.

Despite sunny weather Monday afternoon, dirt and rocks came sliding down.

“Not 20 minutes before, it was sunny and clear,” said Sakahara, who drove by the area.

However, the spate of rainy weather over the past couple of weeks intermixed with sunny skies may have contributed to Monday’s landslide.

The large amount of rain was obviously a factor, Sakahara said.

The Pali, with an abundance of rainfall, is notorious for landslides and rockfalls.

The pitted highway has been undergoing major work both to install a permanent concrete barrier between the opposing traffic lanes, as well as much-needed repaving work.

Sakahara said Monday afternoon it was unclear whether the longstanding weeknight closure of the townbound lanes on the Pali, which begins at 8:30 p.m. through 5 a.m., would go forward since work on the highway may not be able to move forward if debris remained.

Drivers should take alternate routes such as the H-3 freeway, Likelike Highway and Kalanianaole Highway from the east side, he said.

TheBus has set up a bus stop at Vineyard and Nuuanu in front of Harris United Methodist Church for buses that travel on the Pali to reach Windward Oahu. Those buses will now detour to H-1, H-201 and H-3 to reach Windward Oahu. The route 4 bus will still run into Nuuanu Valley.

Honolulu police closed at 4:23 p.m. Monday the townbound lanes of the Pali at Castle Junction and at 5:03 p.m., they closed the Kailua-bound lanes at the Upper Nuuanu Pali Drive.

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