The Post-Landslide Perils of the Pali Highway Continue Until August
If you need to go to the Windward Side, bookmark this commute schedule.
Photos: Courtesy of State Department of Transportation
State transportation crews continue to do repair work on the Pali Highway after a Feb. 18 rockfall and mudslide closed the busy commuter corridor—except for limited commute times—and predict much of the work won’t be completed until August.
Schedule for access to Pali Highway:
(Between Castle Junction and Waokanaka Street through the month of March)
Honolulu-bound morning contraflow: Two lanes of Honolulu-bound traffic are allowed Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.
Kailua/Kāne‘ohe-bound lanes open for evening commute. Access to the Kailua/Kāne‘ohe-bound lanes of Pali Highway is allowed Monday through Friday between 3 and 7 p.m. Warning: Crews begin coning about 6:40 p.m. and access ends at 7 p.m. sharp, even if there’s a line of cars waiting. That last quarter-mile of cars often is forced to turn around and take another route.
After the most urgent work is complete, the state anticipates adding weekend access. But extension of the evening hours is not expected, so crews can use both sides of the road to do repairs.
The state Department of Transportation says contractors continue working on the repairs seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to stabilize the slopes above Pali Highway between the tunnels as well as remove debris. “The mudslide area outside of the Kailua/Kāne‘ohe-bound tunnels has been scoured to remove loose material, covered with erosion control matting and will be mulched to reduce further mudslide risk,” according to an update on March 7.
So why will it take so long to reopen? Officials say the work will take until August—if the weather allows—to install two major components:
To address the rockfall risk on Pali Highway between the tunnels, crews will install an attenuator system—basically a barrier— between Old Pali Road and the highway to serve as a catchment for material falling from the slope above.
Second, a new tunnel structure will be built before the existing Honolulu-bound tunnel entrance to protect vehicles and the highway should rocks or other material make it past the barrier.
On a side note, state officials also suggest hikers stay away while this work is ongoing. They urge the public to avoid trails in the area, such as the Likeke Falls hike between the Pali Lookout and the Ko‘olau Golf Course.
Message boards warn motorists that the lights will remain out in the tunnels during the morning hours when Honolulu-bound traffic is allowed to contraflow. Drivers are asked to use caution as the lights will stay off until the slope is stabilized enough to allow work on electrical conduits and boxes near the tunnels.
While rockfall work is underway and the highway is closed, the state says crews will work to complete the already-underway paving on the Honolulu-bound lanes of Pali Highway between Kamehameha Highway (Castle Junction) and Waokanaka Street.
More information on this project can be found at palihighway.org.