Work begins Monday on extensive repair of the Wilson Tunnels. Here, cars zipped through one of the tunnels yesterday.

Wilson Tunnels
to be upgraded

Nearly $14 million of work on
the tunnels was delayed by the
mudslides at Castle Junction

Beginning Monday, crews working mostly at night will start a major overhaul of the two tunnels on Likelike Highway.

Repair and drainage work on the Wilson Tunnels, built in the 1950s and last refurbished in 1979, will cost $13.8 million, according to the state Department of Transportation.

The repair work is expected to be completed by May 2005. It was delayed after mudslides last spring at Castle Junction required emergency repair work that should be completed by mid-July.

"Castle Junction really threw a monkey wrench into our work schedules," said department spokesman Scott Ishikawa, adding that the Wilson Tunnels work was originally scheduled to begin last fall.

At a cost of $7.8 million, the state is carving a huge cliff that overhangs the roadway at Castle Junction into a small slope. The dirt is being trucked to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe, where it is being used to improve a golf course.

At Castle Junction this weekend, both the town-bound right lane and the right-turn lane of Kalanianaole Highway will be closed from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to remove the fill behind the concrete barriers.

Water leaking into one of the town-bound Wilson Tunnels made for a wet drive yesterday. Tunnel repairs costing $13.8 million begin Monday. Completion is targeted for May 2005.

To prevent traffic jams along the two major routes to the Windward side, the department delayed repairs on the Wilson Tunnels while work continued at Castle Junction, where Pali and Kalanianaole highways intersect with Kamehameha Highway.

"The DOT was concerned that if both projects were worked on in the daytime, at the same time, it would cause way too much congestion on the Windward side," said Ishikawa.

"The tunnel project is going to take so long (16 months) because we are doing most of the work just at night so that traffic isn't disrupted," he said.

Ishikawa said contractor Kiewit Pacific Co. agreed to perform much of the Likelike tunnel work at night, except on Friday and Saturday evening, to lessen the impact on commuter traffic. Work will begin with the Kaneohe-bound tunnel.

The tunnel overhaul will include repairing leaks and cracks and installing ceramic tile similar to what lines the tunnels on the H-3 freeway. The tiles are easier to steam-clean than concrete and should shorten future tunnel closures.

Work crews will also repair curbs and ventilation fans and ducts, upgrade guardrails and replace the drainage system.

Ishikawa said that in September the Kaneohe-bound tunnel will be closed for 30 days so that the tunnel roadway can be repaved with concrete. Ishikawa said concrete lasts about 50 years whereas asphalt needs to be repaved every seven to 10 years.

Once that work is completed and the tunnel reopened, the town-bound tunnel will be closed for 30 days for repaving. It will take another five or six months to complete improvements to the tunnel and adjacent roadway.

Additional improvements include widening the Kaneohe-bound shoulders, installing pavement striping and signage, and relocating street lights, duct lines and pull boxes.

Electronic message signs will inform drivers of upcoming lane closures.

The Wilson Tunnels are named after Johnny Wilson, mayor of Honolulu from 1920 until 1954. Wilson had helped complete the twisting carriage road over the Pali in 1898, and was appointed superintendent of roads in 1908. He was a major advocate of the tunnels.

Tunnel, road repairs will disrupt traffic till May 2005

The work schedule for the Wilson Tunnels and Likelike Highway is:

Until Friday: Town-bound lanes between Valley View Drive in Kalihi and Kahekili Highway in Kaneohe, which are already being repaved, will continue to be closed for repaving Monday through Friday from 9 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

From March 22: Kaneohe-bound lanes will be closed from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., Sunday evenings to Friday mornings. Night closures in this direction are expected until September. Repaving work in this direction will also be done at night during this period.

September: The Kaneohe-bound tunnel will be closed for 30 days for concrete resurfacing.

October: After the Kaneohe-bound tunnel reopens, the town-bound tunnel will close for concrete resurfacing.

After November: Town-bound lanes will be closed at night for work from November to May 2005 with no lane closures during the Christmas holiday season.


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