State will shut down H-3 for two days; freeway will serve as COVID testing site

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Here’s an unprecedented move by the state and City and County of Honolulu.

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The Department of Transportation will shut down the H-3 freeway on September 1 and on September 3. The freeway will serve as a testing location for COVID-19.

The DOT’s Highways Division Deputy Director Ed Sniffen, said once testing is completed drivers will continue on the freeway to the end of the closure and then use alternate Koolau routes if necessary.

“As you come in stay in the left lane when you go through, we don’t know how many people are going to be there,” Sniffen said. “We’re hoping upward to 10,000 to get tested because we want to make sure we hit the surge testing numbers that we’re shooting for.”  

Portable restrooms will sit on each mile in anticipation of a wait time.

Sniffen said traffic has dropped by about 20% with fewer people on the road, he believes Likelike Highway and Pali Highway can handle overflow traffic during the two days of testing.

The H-3 was chosen as a testing site with hopes that it will prevent another major gridlock from happening again. On the first day of the surge testing, sites like Kaneohe District Park had to briefly shut down to get traffic under control.

Sniffen said, “We saw what happened yesterday, the city reached out to see if there are other examples or other things we could do, we jumped-in to partner with them and we’re happy to do so.”   

People who want to be tested on the H-3 Freeway are also asked to sign-up online.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said day two of surge testing went on with less complications, he said walk-up testing sites like on Kalakaua District Park could also help avoid long back-ups.

Caldwell said, “I think we learned a lot today and I see that walk-in testing actually works, you know, people can come in and you see it’s not a huge back-up of people. It’s a steady flow.”

The H-3 Freeway testing will take place from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. The plan is to set up test stations on both the Kaneohe and Halawa sides of the tunnel. Vehicles can line up on the inside lanes of the H-3 while the other lane will provide access for emergency vehicles.

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