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Drivers urged to plan ahead as repairs to damaged water main continue on Moanalua Freeway

Published: Jun. 18, 2021 at 4:41 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 4:25 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Repairs on a crucial 42-inch water main on Moanalua Freeway continued into the workweek Monday, prompting officials to urge drivers to plan ahead.

The repair work snarled westbound traffic over the weekend ― and had authorities urging people to work from home if possible to avoid gridlock during the Monday afternoon commute.

And drivers appeared to heed those warnings. On Monday, traffic was flowing in the area.

The bad news? Authorities still don’t know how long it will take to complete repairs.

“If you don’t have to be in the area, please don’t,” said Ed Sniffen, state Transportation Department deputy director for highways.

“If you have to work at the office, please plan this out. There’s going to be some delays (on) your normal commute, so plan it out accordingly.”

The damaged line is on the right shoulder of the Moanalua Freeway just after the Fort Shafter and Ahua Street exit, and repair work is closing one westbound lane from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Overnight, additional lanes will be impacted.

The Board of Water Supply said around noon Friday, contractor Hensel Phelps damaged the line while performing underground horizontal drilling for a new sewer line for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Repair crews dug over 25 feet down to access the pipe.

Todd Barnes, chief of engineering and construction division for the Honolulu District Army Corps of Engineers, said specification indicated “we were going to miss the water main by quite a bit.”

The 42-inch line is the largest line size BWS manages. The pipe is critical to the urban core, bringing about 15 million gallons of water from Pearl Harbor to Urban Honolulu and as far out as Hawaii Kai.

BWS is monitoring their systems and officials say right now, there is no need for a water conservation notice. A backup pipe along with reservoirs are maintaining water demand in Honolulu.

“We’re not asking for water conservation requests at this time, because we have another alternative redundant pipeline, 42 inches in diameter also, that is bringing the water to help meet Honolulu’s demand,” BWS Manager and Chief Engineer Ernest Lau said, at a news conference Sunday.

If there are problems with the second pipeline, BWS says they could issue a conservation notice, which would cover an estimated 50,000 customers.

Lau said the damaged part of the 42-inch pipeline was installed in the 1980s. Other sections of the pipe have been there since the 1940s.

But the manager said pipelines run under the freeway to get water to customers throughout the island.

“The reality is, there are people that live on both sides of the freeway on the mauka side and the makai side,” Lau said. “And our water tanks are usually on the mauka side on higher elevations, we [also] have wells on that side too.”

“We are working as quickly as we can to repair this 42-inch transmission main break, but it does take time for this to get done,” Lau added.

BWS officials said they believe the damaged pipe is below sea level, making excavation work extra challenging.

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This story will be updated.

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