Truck loses heavy load, damaging overpass and closing freeway for hours

(Image: Tania Cheng/Facebook)
(Image: Tania Cheng/Facebook)
(Image: Jaymes Song/Twitter)
(Image: Jaymes Song/Twitter)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: State Transportation Department)
(Image: State Transportation Department)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Department of Transportation crews have finished removing debris and installing temporary barriers after traffic was brought to a standstill Thursday afternoon when a truck lost its heavy load on a freeway overpass.

HDOT crews installed the temporary barriers on the H-1 Freeway overpass to prevent vehicles from traveling off the roadway, and to allow both lanes on the Airport on-ramp from the westbound H-1 Freeway to be reopened. A reduced speed limit of 20 mph is in effect for this area until further notice.

The incident sent concrete debris raining down on lanes below and shutting down the Moanalua Freeway eastbound for hours.

The Moanalua Freeway eastbound at Middle Street was reopened about 5:30 p.m., more than three hours after being shut down so crews could clear large chunks of concrete and other debris from lanes.

The airport viaduct westbound off-ramp, meanwhile, remains closed and it's unclear when it will reopen. The overpass sustained "significant damage," state Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara said, though it's been determined to be structurally sound.

While the Moanalua Freeway was closed, traffic was being rerouted onto other roadways, and traffic signals on surface streets were adjusted to help ease heavy congestion through the urban core.

The traffic mess started around 1:30 p.m., when a truck carrying large crane counterweights lost it load, Sakahara told Hawaii News Now.

He said the truck exited onto the airport viaduct off-ramp from the H-1 Freeway westbound and "might have been going too fast" when it lost control. The truck's heavy load hit the overpass barrier and sent concrete and debris down onto freeway lanes below.

"We're grateful and thankful that no one down below was significantly injured," Sakahara said, adding the damage to the overpass is "significant. This is not just some spalling or some tipping. The railing is completely destroyed."

Several cars were damaged by falling debris, though officials could not immediately say how many.

Earlier, several westbound lanes were also affected, though they have since also reopened.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said his advice to commuters is simple: Stay off the roads until the traffic is clear.

"Please, please, please, do not come into town unless you absolutely have to," Caldwell said, about 4 p.m.

In fact, officials urged anyone who didn't need to get on the roads in town to stay put.

About 5 p.m., it was taking about two hours to get from Honolulu to Waianae, and about 80 minutes to get to Mililani.

Those stuck in traffic took to social media to share their frustration.

"Whatever you do, do not go eastbound. You'll thank me later!" wrote one Twitter user.

Another wrote, "What a way to start a three-day weekend."

Sakahara said one lane of the viaduct off-ramp is expected to remain closed through the weekend as crew works to repair damage to the overpass.

He also said the state will "send a repair bill" to the company that owns the truck responsible for the damage.

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