onto Kalanianaole Highway
close a lane for three weeks
The fifth-ranked most hazardous landslide area on Oahu just got a priority upgrade, according to state transportation officials.
Private contractors and state engineers announced that they discovered cracks during an inspection yesterday of the ridge above Kalanianaole Highway at Castle Junction after a landslide early Monday morning. State officials said the cracks were not there when their consultants were ranking potentially dangerous landslide areas around Oahu last year.
Until yesterday, the Kalanianaole Highway side of Castle Junction was No. 5 on the list.
"It's definitely earned a higher ranking now," said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa. "Just how high I don't know.
"We went from stabilizing two areas where the landslides took place to having to take a look at the whole ridge. ... Our engineers said a temporary fix won't do. It's all or nothing."
Until the slope can be stabilized, transportation officials have closed the right turn lane from Kalanianaole Highway to Kamehameha Highway where three landslides in the last two weeks spilled onto the road. Ishikawa said another smaller slide that threw softball-sized rocks onto the same right turn lane happened Monday afternoon after the Department of Transportation had closed the road.
Ishikawa said the right turn lane will likely remain closed for the next three weeks and that motorists wanting to turn right onto Kamehameha Highway from Kalanianaole Highway will have to do so from the Castle Junction intersection. Ishikawa predicts that the right-turn lane will reopen after the Department of Transportation gets barriers in place to distance motorists from the cliffside.
"We're looking at placing some barriers about 15 feet from the slope and then opening up the right-turn lane," he said. "People might have to drive partially on the traffic island, but otherwise the road is wide enough for that."
Until that day comes, however, motorists passing through Castle Junction via Kalanianaole Highway will have to deal with drivers stopping in the middle of the intersection to make the turn to Kamehameha Highway.
"I've heard a few screeching brakes and seen a few near accidents already," said Maunawili resident Michael Weaver. "The fact that people have to go up to the intersection to make a right turn, they almost have to come to a stop and make a 90-degree turn.
"I just think people need to be made aware of what to expect at that intersection right now. ... But I'm glad they're fixing the hillside. That's definitely a priority."
Before the state can fix anything it needs to resolve the situation with Hawaii Pacific University, which owns the mountainside behind its Hawaii Loa campus. According to HPU officials, there is an easement noted on the master plan for the campus that places the slope in question under the state's care.
"We're not saying that it's not our property," said Ishikawa. "We're saying we don't know ... and we're not going to do anything until we're sure."
"It's like going into your neighbor's yard and start building a fence."
Some residents would rather not see anything built at all, especially if it means making already congested Pali traffic even worse.
"If you're not on the Pali Highway by 7 a.m. you're backed up past (Kapaa) Quarry Road," said Kailua resident Ryan Canon. "You're not going to get over the mountain anytime soon."
"I honestly don't think this has been a real problem. It's clay up there, not hard rock like at Makapuu."
Kailua resident Charmaine Baptiste said, "The traffic always gets bad when those landslides happen."
"It usually takes half an hour to get to town. Now it'll take about hour," he said. "At least this is happening during the summertime. Traffic would have been a lot worse if UH was in session."