HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The left lane of the Likelike Highway inside the Wilson Tunnel will remain closed for as many as two months as crews continue to make emergency repairs to the ceiling in the Honolulu-bound tunnel.
During a news conference Friday, officials with the State Department of Transportation said two months was a conservative estimate for how long it could take to repair the damaged tunnel. It will take about 3-4 weeks for the replacement parts to be made and delivered before the actual repair work can begin. Once the parts arrive, crews will likely close down both lanes of the Likelike Highway in the Honolulu direction during the overnight hours of 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. During peak commute hours, only the right lane will remain open.
The tunnel was initially closed Friday, September 25, for emergency maintenance to fix ceiling panels. The tunnel is made of concrete slabs that rest on ledges along both side walls of each tunnel and are supported in the center by a stainless steel rod. At that time, the DOT said eight of the rods had disconnected from the ceiling.
During the emergency closure, a structural engineering consultant identified 22 other rods that were damaged, bringing the total number of compromised rods to 30.
"We don't take lightly shutting down routes, but we do it to ensure that nobody gets hurt," said Ed Sniffen, Highways Division Deputy Director.
The right lane inside the tunnel was reopened to traffic heading to Honolulu in time for the Monday morning commute, but drivers can see floor-to-ceiling wooden beams in place, supporting the ceiling.
"The safety of our residents, visitors, and staff is our number one priority," said Sniffen. "My compliments to the highways staff for identifying a problem, proactively taking steps to protect the public, and for returning a lane to the community as soon as it was safe to do so."
Repair work will include replacing several other rods that transportation officials say are not broken but should be replaced now anyway. When asked why the rods broke, Sniffen said it was an old tunnel, and the air flow above the ceiling was creating vibrations that are straining the rods. Routine inspections will be increased from every two years to every year, he said.
The Wilson Tunnel, which first opened to traffic in 1960, remains safe for drivers during the repair, the DOT says.