History of the Wilson Tunnel on Likelike Hwy

Aloha Authentic

HONOLULU (KHON2) – Are you curious about the history and culture of Hawaii? Have you ever thought that you could learn more about that just by paying attention to the names of our streets?  

[Hawaii news on the go–LISTEN to KHON 2GO weekday mornings at 7:30 a.m.]

Our weekly “Aloha Authentic” segment highlights various roadways around Oahu so we can dive into our past and learn a little something.  

This week, let’s head through the Koolau mountain.

Connecting the moku of Koolaupoko on Oahu is a highway named after a Hawaiian princess.  

We are talking about Likelike Highway.

Likelike Highway is named after Princess Miriam Likelike. She was the sister of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s last reigning monarchs.  

As the highway stretches from Kaneohe to Kalihi, a set of tunnels pierce through the Koolau mountain.

These tunnels were named “John H. Wilson Tunnel” in honor of John Henry Wilson, a native Hawaiian engineer and politician. He served three stints as Honolulu mayor and was a supporter of the project.

On Jan. 8, 1954, excavation began with 250 pounds of black powder. It gauged a hole in the Kaneohe side of the mountain. Unfortunately, on Aug. 14, seven months into construction, the tunnel collapsed and claimed five lives.  

Eighteen months passed before construction resumed.

The first tunnel opened to Kaneohe bound traffic on Oct. 30, 1958. The following day, it opened to Honolulu bound as well.  

It took two more years before both tunnels became fully operational and opened on Nov. 22, 1960.

Did you know? Now you do!

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