Plans for the Castle Junction cliffside, above, call for it to be cut and lowered, as shown in the rendering below.

State to repair Castle Junction

The $14 million, six-month project
is meant to eliminate mudslides
at the busy intersection

The state will spend $14 million to substantially cut back a Castle Junction cliffside where mudslides have closed a turn lane of Kalanianaole Highway.

Construction off the town-bound Kalanianaole lanes at Kamehameha Highway could start as early as December and would last six months, state Transportation Director Rod Haraga said yesterday.

Workers would reduce the slope of the cliffside to 20 degrees from 80 degrees. The cliffside is about 60 to 75 feet high now. Transportation officials did not have an estimate of how high it would be after the work is done.

The plan is to carve 500 feet into the cliffside along a 1,000-foot stretch, remove 24,000 truckloads of dirt and debris, repave the right lane of the town-bound part of the highway and add an 8-foot shoulder and a 6-foot gutter for drainage, according to transportation officials.

Haraga said construction on the road will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. weekdays and possibly during the nights, but crews will avoid working during rush-hour peaks.

Commuters should expect closures to some town-bound lanes from Kailua once construction starts, Haraga said.

About five truckloads of mud and dirt slid down the cliffside on May 20, leading to the closure of the right-turn lane from Kalanianaole Highway onto Kamehameha Highway.

Several landslides have occurred since then, making Castle Junction the department's "top priority right now," said Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

As a temporary solution, the department installed a 1,400-foot-long row of concrete barriers along Kalanianaole Highway to give motorists a 12-foot buffer from the landslide area. However, the barriers blocked off the turn lane. The new plan would eliminate the wall and repave the 12-foot lane.

A week before the May 20 landslide, the Transportation Department had released a survey that listed Castle Junction as Oahu's fifth-most hazardous landslide site.

Rep. David Pendleton (R, Maunawili-Kaneohe) said yesterday that the community is concerned about the project because "traffic is already slow in this area." He asked whether contra-flow lanes or other options might be available once the roadwork starts.

Officials are considering adding a contra-flow lane to alleviate traffic congestion, but it might be difficult because of cost and safety reasons, said Ishikawa.

Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc. has been hired as the project consultant.

Pendleton said he is happy that the plan is "not a Band-Aid solution, but a permanent fix."

The $14 million covers the construction, land acquisition and consulting by a private firm.

The Department of Transportation will have to purchase six acres from Hawaii Pacific University and the Teixeira Family Trust to start work on the cliffside.

The money will come from a special state highway fund that Gov. Linda Lingle authorized to be used after she signed an emergency proclamation to "reduce the danger of further landslides and rockfalls in the area," according to department officials.

Other landslide areas have undergone similar projects. However, the projects were not as costly and did not require as much work as Castle Junction will.

Makapuu Point, designated as the No. 1 most hazardous area, had a rockslide in October. Since then it has undergone $1.5 million worth of work, including placing a steel net over the cliffside to prevent rocks from falling onto the road.

An area of Kamehameha Highway near Waimea Bay also had a steel net placed over the cliffside. About $7 million went into fixing the rockfall danger in that area.

"We could do a Band-Aid approach and just plaster the hill," Haraga said, "but the state prefers to fix the problem for good. This is a solution we know will work."

Castle Junction fix

Here are some highlights of the state's Castle Junction project:

>> Cost is $14 million.

>> Construction will start as early as December and run for six months.

>> Construction will take place weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and possibly at nights.

>> Commuters coming from Kailua should expect some lane closures to town-bound lanes on Kalanianaole Highway.

As part of its $14 million improvement at Castle Junction, the state is planning to widen Kalanianaole Highway to include a 12-foot-wide lane, 8-foot shoulder lane and 6-foot gutter lane.


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