HART says rail guideways are safe despite concrete looming above


Thousands of Oahu drivers see it every day on the H-1 Freeway and might be wondering, how do they do that?

One of those drivers contacted us via Report It to ask about the rail columns being built at the H-1, H-2 merge.

Ewa-bound drivers see a massive column going up on the H-1 Freeway, just past the Waipahu exit, with a large portion extending over the road.

As they drive under the rail guideway that’s being built, this is how some of them feel:

“A lot of times I feel kind of unsafe. I don’t want to be driving right under it,” said driver Paula Asamoto.

“At night, maybe it’s a little bit scarier,” said driver Shane Imai. “Just that way it looks, it looms over the freeway a little bit.”

The H-1, H-2 merge will have the most drivers traveling under the 20-mile rail line. So how safe is it?

“All of the structure itself is calculated. How much steel, how much concrete, the foundations that support it, the soils that support it, all of those factors are taken into account,” said Lorenzo Garrido, HART design and construction director.

Construction crews place the columns on the freeway, install rebar or steel, pour heavy-duty concrete on top by using a pump truck on the ground, and then run and pull steel strands to make it more stable.

Experts say the structure acts like a seesaw until it’s permanently in place, which is normally how other overpasses and bridges are built.

It’s described as a seesaw, not because it moves like one, but because of how it’s built, pouring concrete on one side, then on the other, until it’s complete.

“What do you tell drivers who are driving underneath it and are a little bit scared that something’s going to fall off?” KHON2 asked.

“Well, it is safe. It’s sound. It’s not going to fall down, so even the construction above, any work that is being performed by the contractor to place the concrete is performed when lanes are closed,” Garrido said.

When the column is done, it will be able to support more than 900,000 pounds, or two fully loaded trains traveling at the same time.

HART officials also said building this part of the guideway this way creates the least amount of impact on traffic, but construction and lane closures in this area will continue for at least another year.

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