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State extends Pali repair work through November, but will reopen highway longer in August

  • Video by Craig T. Kojima

    Hawaii Department of Transportation Deputy Director of Highways Ed Sniffen gave the media a tour of the Pali Highway construction site on Monday and provided an updated timelines for the reopening of the busy highway.


    Repairs continued today on the hillside above the Pali Highway tunnels. State officials had hoped to be done with the work in August but said today additional work will continue through November.


    Crews work today on the new “rock shed” that will extend the entrance to the second tunnel, going townbound, on Pali Highway. The new structure is expected to shield motorists and the roadway from falling rocks and debris.

Repair work on the Pali Highway following February’s rockslides will continue through November, however state officials said they will be able to open the critical roadway for longer hours during the day, starting in August.

Hawaii Department of Transportation officials had originally estimated that repairs would be completed in August, but today said additional work will keep the highway closed after 7 p.m. until the end of November.

During a media tour of Pali Highway this morning, officials gave the following updates:

>> Starting Aug. 1, Pali Highway’s morning contraflow will be open from 5 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., going townbound, Sunday through Friday.

>> Starting Aug. 1, Pali Highway’s Kailua-bound lanes will be open from 12:30 to 7 p.m., Sunday through Friday.

>> Starting Sept. 1, Pali Highway will be open in both directions from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday.

Officials said that by the end of August, the tunnel extension at the second tunnel’s entrance, going townbound, should be completed, and the Pali Highway should be open in both directions.

The work includes a “rock shed,” which is a new, concrete structure extending the tunnel’s entrance by about 80 feet, with the intention of shielding motorists and the roadway from any future rockfalls.

On the slope above it, contractors have finished installing a set of poles and a net catchment system right below Old Pali Highway road to protect construction crews while they work on this tunnel extension, also known as a “rock shed.”

However, additional slope work — as well as work on top of the “rock shed” — will require night-time closures, and occasional single-lane daytime closures, until the end of November, officials said today. This “rock shed” in the area between the two tunnels going townbound is where the state is most concerned about protecting motorists.

In February, a torrential downpour resulted in a mudslide after the second tunnel in the Kailua bound lane, and a rockslide between the two tunnels heading townbound, injuring three. The damage resulted in the closure of the Pali Highway between Waokanaka Street and Castle Junction for emergency repairs.

Soon after the rockfall, DOT officials reopened the highway on a limited basis with morning contra-flow hours of 5 to 9 a.m. in the Honolulu-bound direction, and afternoon Kailua-bound lanes open 3 to 7 p.m.

Following last Tuesday’s record rainfall, some erosion matting was dislodged along the hillside after the second tunnel, going Kailua bound.

The state has since secured the area, and is moving forward with plans to install Tecco mesh, secured by more than 100 soil nails, to prevent future mudslides. The soil nails will now be longer, according to DOT deputy director of highways Ed Sniffen.

In addition, the state has also decided to install a six-foot fence between the two tunnels, going Kailua bound, along the top of the tunnels, as well as from the second tunnel to the speed limit sign, to prevent rocks and debris from falling on the road.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to protect Pali Highway,” Sniffen said in a news release. “Following completion of the protections we have been able to put in place thanks to FHWA’s Emergency Relief program and the emergency funding from the state Legislature, we fully expect that Pali Highway will be more resilient and dependable in severe weather events.”

The cost of the repair work is still estimated at about $20 million, according to Sniffen.

Correction: Transportation officials said starting Sept. 1, the Pali Highway will be open in both directions from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday. An earlier version of this story said those hours would be daily.

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