H-3 Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa
Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa
Brennon Morioka
Brennon Morioka
Stan Kawaguchi
Stan Kawaguchi

WINDWARD OAHU (KHNL) --  It cost $1.3 billion to build. And now Hawaii's largest public works project ever turns ten years old.

It cuts through the Koolau mountains, an engineering marvel. The 16-mile long H-3 Freeway connects the windward side with central Oahu using two sets of tunnels, a pair of viaducts and 26 bridges.

But this very expensive road, cost $81 million a mile and also came with controversy.

"The H-3 freeway is a terrible, terrible mistake. It's terrible to have a freeway running over the sacred sites of Hawaii," said Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa, a protestor with the University of Hawaii Center for Hawaiian Studies in 1997.

But now that this high tech highway has been up and running for the past ten years, traffic has gotten better for windward commuters.

"It's far exceeded our expectations in terms of use, we've really reduced congestion on a number of other roads," said Brennon Morioka with the State Department of Transportation.

How much has it helped?

With the nearly 50,000 cars and trucks on the H-3 each day, the Pali Highway traffic has dropped by 12,000 thousand vehicles compared to ten years ago.

And the Likelike Highway traffic has nearly been cut in half.

While it came with a high price tag, according to planners, the H-3 Freeway won't ever see congestion the H-1 Freeway already sees on a daily basis.

"You will not see major congestion on this freeway, because the state and the county have managed to control the growth on the windward side," said Stan Kawaguchi, a retired project manager.

So while more cars add up to more traffic on the heavily used H-1 Freeway, on the anniversary of the H-3 Freeway, it is smooth sailing for drivers on this superhighway.

The State Department of Transportation said that now that they have a handle on traffic congestion for the windward side and East Honolulu, their focus is the backlog on West Oahu roads.