Rockfall on Pali Highway damages multiple cars

Local News

All lanes of the Pali Highway are now open following a rockfall Monday morning that damaged multiple cars and temporarily closed lanes in both directions. 

The rockslide happened around 7 a.m. between the tunnels.

HPD says rocks damaged four vehicles. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

The falling rocks were reported to range in size from baseballs to basketballs.

“There was a lot of gravel that came down,” said Ed Sniffen, Hawaii Department of Transportation Deputy Director for Highways. “It wasn’t a landslide. It wasn’t a significant portion of the slope that came down.”

HDOT sent personnel to inspect the slopes, check for any additional loose rocks and debris, and knock them down. The operation forced the complete shutdown of the highway in the area.

“Our geotechnical engineers and our scalers determined that the portions of the slope that were looked at were all stable this time,” said Sniffen. “The biggest thing our crews wanted to do was first make sure everything was safe and secure for the use of our highway, and secondarily to ensure we had a plan to open up for the p.m. commute, should we have to keep it closed.”

Over the next two weeks, a state crew will continue scaling operations along the entire stretch of slope between the tunnels to assess the conditions and ensure stability.

“In this area, when you look at the slopes, it’s a weathered rock formation. Some areas weather differently than others,” said Sniffen. “We’re going to do a more intensive review of the slopes in the next couple of weeks so we can determine the extent of the repairs we need to do in that area, and the stability we need for it.”

The state also plans to install impact fences along Old Pali Road by the end of the year to minimize any impacts should additional rocks fall.

The rockslide happened on the stretch of the Pali highway that the Department of Transportation considers it’s second highest priority for rockfall mitigation. 

According to the Department of Transportation:

“Priority for rockfall mitigation sites are based on a weighted score that takes into account rockfall hazard geology, the drop zone area, and the potential for a vehicle to be present during a rockfall event. Areas with current rockfall events (such as Kuhio Highway on the north shore of Kauai) are prioritized regardless of the placement in the ranking.”

Oahu Top 5 Rockfall Mitigation Sites:

  1. Kamehameha Hwy (Route 83) – MP 5.4-5.52 
  2. Pali Hwy (Route 61) – MP 5.69-5.9 (Note: today’s rockfall originated at MP 5.88)
  3. Pali Hwy (Route 61) – MP 5.95-6.04 
  4. Pali Hwy (Route 61) – MP 6.04-6.55 
  5. Kamehameha Hwy (Route 83) – MP 5.66-5.93 

Statewide Top 10 Rockfall Mitigation Sites:

  1. Kamehameha Hwy (Route 83) – MP 5.4-5.52 
  2. Hawaii Belt Road (Route 19) – MP 21.04-21.49 
  3. Hawaii Belt Road (Route 19) – MP 25.77-26.02
  4. Kuhio Highway (Route 56) – MP 24.79-25.01
  5. Hawaii Belt Road (Route 19) – MP 21.6-21.85
  6. Kuhio Highway (Route 560) – MP 0.66-1.17
  7. Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30) – MP 10.33-10.44
  8. (tied with below) Pali Highway (Route 61) – MP 5.69-5.9
  9. (tied with below) Pali Highway (Route 61) – MP 5.95-6.04
  10. Hawaii Belt Road (Route 19) – MP 26.27-26.72

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