KANEOHE, Hawaii (KHON2) — Windward Oahu residents will not be able to use Likelike Highway to get into town, through Nov. 10 to the 13.
Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8
That is according to the Department of Transportation, which is making emergency repairs on damaged steel rods in the ceiling of Wilson Tunnel.
Officials said a regular inspection of Wilson Tunnel on Thursday, Nov. 9 revealed 10 structural support rods in the ceiling were damaged. All of the damaged rods were along the town-bound side and crews immediately shut down the lanes. They found 15 more damaged rods during the morning of Friday, Nov. 10.
“So this weekend, we’ll have both lanes closed,” said Hawaii Department of Transportation director Ed Sniffen, “by Monday morning for the a.m. peak, we’ll have one lane open through the tunnel. So, we’ll have scaffolding set up on one side, the side that we’re coring on, and we’ll keep that area closed but one lane will be open through full time.”
This has happened before, most recently in 2021 when eight rods needed to be replaced on the town-bound side of Wilson Tunnel.
“The tunnel was built in the 1960’s and the rods have not been replaced since then,” Sniffen said, “so the rods that were replaced were those that we put in place for emergency repair.”
Federal regulations require inspections once every two years, but the Transportation Department has done them annually since 2021. KHON2 asked if things will change since more damaged rods were found.
“It’s going to be every six months now,” Sniffen said.
The House Committee on Transportation said the repeated issue is a sign of something more.
“We are now in the generation where things that were built originally need to be repaired and what’s happening in Likelike tunnel is going to happen across the state,” said House Committee on Transportation vice chair Darius Kila. “So as a state, we need to be proactive on repair and maintenance and not wait till it breaks.”
Sniffen told KHON2 that the emergency repairs are separate from a long term project to replace all 700 rods on both sides of the Wilson Tunnel. That project is expected to start in 2025.
“There’s still a year that we got to deal with to ensure that we can keep the public safe. So we’ll inspect every six months, but we’ll still preemptively add rods in place to ensure there’s more support for this tunnel,” Sniffen said.
Lawmakers appreciate that preemptive action.
“It’s necessary, it’s going to have to happen,” Rep. Kila said. “There is no if and or but because if it’s coming to the jeopardization of safety, it has to be a number one priority.”
The current repairs are expected to cost between $1-1.5 million, with the full replacement between $45-50 million.