HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Bad news, Windward drivers: Repairs to Honolulu-bound lanes of the Pali Highway aren’t expected to be completed until August, the state Transportation Department announced Thursday.
Contractors are working to make the repairs seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and officials said the extended closure timeline underscores the sheer scope of the project.
Ed Sniffen, deputy director at the state Transportation Department, said the key slope stabilization work above the townbound lanes will be especially difficult, since crews discovered a “stress crack” in the mountain area above the roadway.
“I am not saying there will be no more landslides in that area. I am pretty sure there will be," he said.
Sniffen added that the rockfall danger above the townbound lanes “scares the heck out of me.”
“To me, this is the best case scenario. A lot came down. Nobody was seriously injured. Nobody got killed. But it was bad enough to make sure that we determine now that we’re not going to allow this to happen again," he said.
The state’s plan for protecting Pali Highway townbound drivers from rockfalls includes reinforcing the slope and installing an attenuator system to serve as a rockfall catchment system.
Crews will then construct a 90-foot extension of the townbound tunnel entrance to help shield the public from future landslides.
“We’re confident that the structure itself is far out enough that we won’t get any rockfall onto the roadway itself,” Sniffen said.
Officials have estimated the project will cost about $15 million.
The rockfall that prompted the closure of the townbound lanes happened last month, following a heavy rain. In the days after the incident, several additional landslides happened, sending boulders as big as SUVs raining onto lanes.
During the closure, the Kaneohe-bound lanes are being contraflowed during peak weekday hours ― from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. for townbound drivers and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. for Kailua-bound drivers.
Sniffen said that at least for the next month, those hours will remain.
But he hopes to extend those hours, as long as that extension doesn’t mean the overall project will last longer.
And officials are also looking to offer weekend access once the most urgent slope stabilization work is complete.