Friday’s announcement that work on the Pali Highway is nearly complete and the iconic roadway is again open to traffic 24/7 in both directions made some Windward residents and commuters ecstatic and grateful.
“That actually is awesome,” said Waimanalo resident Donald Gahit, a sales clerk at both the Kailua and Kapahulu locations for Calvin &Susie, a store for pets. “It’ll be easier for people who actually live here. Most of us (who work at the shop) take the bus,” and the closure added a half hour to the 1-1/2-hour bus ride, or 15 to 30 minutes to the drive time.
“Now if they’d keep both lanes open so traffic is not so crazy …,” Suzanne Braun said.
For 10 months, the Pali Highway, a major
artery between downtown Honolulu and Windward Oahu, was shuttered or partially closed because of a major landslide on President’s Day and the subsequent safety measures and repairs.
On Feb. 18, earth and rock rained down from above the Old Pali Road onto the highway fronting the entrance of the second townbound tunnel, injuring a 43-year-old woman and two girls, ages 9 and 2.
An emergency proclamation was issued shortly afterward, designating the area a disaster and providing relief for related damage.
The state Department of Transportation began work on removing loose material from the slopes and worked on a plan to prevent landslides.
A rock shed structure,
designed to protect the public traveling along the roadway from future landslides, is nearing completion. The structure was built out
80 feet, lengthening the
tunnel at that entrance.
However, a crane will be used for the finishing touches of the rock shed, which will require a four-hour, late night shutdown of all Honolulu-bound lanes sometime in mid-January.
Also crews installed mesh netting to prevent
further rockslides or landslides above the rock shed structure.
New fencing was installed above the first Honolulu-
bound tunnel entrance for the same purpose.
DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara said the 24/7 opening comes “just in time for the holidays.”
Additionally, there will be one-lane closures in both directions to finish up some of the work including putting up utility poles, street lights and installing permanent striping, Sakahara said.
Residents and those who work, play or attend school on the Windward side, have had to use alternate routes that have added to their commute and travel times.
Most of the later closures occurred during typically off-peak hours.
Much of the work including the emergency slope
repairs from what the DOT termed “catastrophic landslides,” was done at night. The glow of the bright lights illuminating the work site on the Pali could be seen miles away.
But heavy rainfall in September and October for 40% of the nights further delayed the work.
“They were working as fast and effectively as possible, he said.
The DOT took advantage of the closures to work on Phase 1 of the Pali Highway Improvement project, including repaving and reconstruction of the highway between Waokanaka Street and Kamehameha Highway. The project began in December 2017 and is expected to be completed by February, weather permitting.
It also includes installing concrete median barriers and new street lights, new traffic signs and drainage improvements and shoulder rumble strips. New safety features such as high-friction surface treatment and glare screens have also been installed at the hairpin turn on the Pali.
The DOT said for travel lanes it is using stone matrix asphalt, which is more durable and flexible and has a longer life than
The cost is estimated at $22 million for the emergency repairs and $64 million for the Phase 1 improvements.
For some, the opening couldn’t come soon enough.
“We actually moved to town because the drive was too much every day having to go around,” Jamie Siangco said. “Because of our work hours, the limited operating hours were no good to us. We actually saved money and time by moving to town.”
Others were grateful for the work.
Neil Gre on Facebook said, “I’d like to express gratitude to everyone that had to work so many nights so that it could be open during the day.”
Barbara Underwood said, “Job well done! I think they did a great job getting this project done with little disruption to our routine — thanks to the H3 and Likelike.”
Shane Fivella, who lives and works in Kailua, said, “A lot of people get upset because it’s an inconvenience, but they don’t understand it’s about safety. I’m glad it’s going to open 24/7. It’s the holidays. It’s totally perfect.”
Fivella said he sympathizes with friends and family on the West side, who only have one roadway. “I try not to complain too much. If the Pali is closed, I’ll just take the H3 (freeway) or the Likelike (Highway).”
Larry Goldberg said he enjoys the pothole-free highway.