HONOLULU (AP) — It will be at least another five months before an Oahu highway is fixed and reopened following a landslide last month, state officials said Thursday.
Repairs to the Honolulu-bound side of the Pali Highway, a critical route between Honolulu and the windward side of the island, are expected to be completed in August.
Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state highways division, said crews are installing a mesh barrier on the slope above the highway to catch falling debris. Workers will also extend a tunnel about 80 feetto shield motorists from rocks that make it past the barrier.
“The significant concern is for the town-bound side,” said Sniffen. “When we look on the slope up above, there is nothing on the slope that affects the Kaneohe-bound side. So we’re focusing specifically on the town-bound direction.”
Heavy rain led to a landslide last month that closed the highway for days and prompted an emergency proclamation from the governor for the estimated $15 million in repairs.
State officials rushed to clear the debris and also had to remove a dangling chunk of concrete from Old Pali Road, which was also damaged significantly and posed an additional risk to the highway below.
The Pali Lookout remains closed, and the state urges the public to avoid trails in the area, including the Likeke Falls hike between the lookout and the Koolau Golf Course.
The landslide also damaged electrical conduits that light the tunnels on the highway.
While clearing debris from the upper slope, Sniffen said officials noticed a “stress crack” that could potentially result in another landslide, which makes these protection measures necessary for motorists’ future safety.
“I am not saying there’s going to be no more landslides in that area,” said Sniffen. “I’m pretty sure there will be.”
Some commuters can still access the route during morning and afternoon rush hours. The entire highway is closed the rest of the day and all weekend.
Windward-side commuters lamented several more months of using alternative routes to town.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Danielle Scherman, a real estate agent on the windward side. “I’m making it work. Everybody has to make it work. Traffic to get from Kailua to Likelike is really crazy.”
The Pali contra-flow does not flow the right way for all commuters.
Sierra Hartmann-Geiger, a retail associate at the Fighting Eel boutique in Kailua, travels in the opposite direction. Mornings, she travels from her home in Makiki to work in Kailua, so the Pali contra-flow is not an option.
What used to take 20 minutes on the Pali now takes anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour via Likelike Highway, she said. The alternative routes are also using up more gas, resulting in a more costly commute.
“Get it fixed, please,” she said, “with a cherry on top.”