Contraflow Lanes Open on Pali Highway; Long-Term Fix Could Take Months

Feb 21, 2019

Assessments continue of the unstable slope above the Honolulu-bound lanes of the Pali Highway.
Credit Hawaii Department of Transportation

Contraflow lanes are open today on the Kailua-bound side of the Pali Highway, a major roadway that had been closed since Monday following several landslides near the Pali tunnels. But a permanent solution to fully restore the highway may be months away.

Crews removed a section of Old Pali Road that had been hanging above the highway, making it safe for drivers and allowing the contraflow traffic, officials said in a news release.

The contraflow lanes accommodated drivers headed in the Honolulu direction from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and will shift to Kailua-bound traffic from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. The lanes will operate Monday to Friday, excluding holidays.

Kailua-bound traffic will not be allowed to travel through the area when the Honolulu-bound contraflow is in effect.

As shown on a department map, the contraflow lanes begin for Honolulu-bound motorists at the intersection to Saint Stephen’s Diocesan Center and exit at the Nuuanu Pali Drive intersection adjacent to the Nuuanu Reservoir. 

Drivers can also take alternate routes to and from Windward Oahu: H-3 Freeway,  Likelike Highway and Kalanianaole Highway. Hours for the Kalanianaole Highway morning HOV contraflow are being extended to 9 a.m. through tomorrow to help ease the congestion.

PERMANENT SOLUTION COULD TAKE MONTHS

A long-term solution to restore the highway could take months, department spokesman Tim Sakahara said yesterday. One option under discussion calls for extending the Pali tunnel roof to catch or stop debris that may fall from the hillside. Another aims to stabilize the slope using soil nails and shotcrete. Such possible solutions would take time to implement, Sakahara said.

State transportation officials have been assessing the unstable slope above the highway following the recent landslides.

One of the Monday landslides sent three people to the hospital and closed the highway in both directions.

A small landslide first shut down one lane of the highway, rocks and debris were cleared and the lane was quickly reopened. Several hours later, another larger landslide hit in the same spot, covering the roadway and closing all lanes heading away from Honolulu. 

The Honolulu-bound lanes remained open, but about an hour later another landslide struck nearby, sending huge rocks and debris crashing onto the open lanes where a pickup truck was passing into a tunnel.

A 40-year-old Kaneohe woman who was riding in the bed of a truck was injured, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services spokeswoman Shayne Enright said. The woman sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to the hospital in serious condition.

Two girls, ages 2 and 9, were also in the truck and taken to the hospital but were not injured, Enright said.

In August, a landslide covered the same area of the Honolulu-bound lanes of the highway during the morning rush-hour commute. Falling rocks damaged four vehicles during that landslide, but no one was injured.