DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
State Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa points to the right-turn lane from Kailua to Kaneohe by the transformed hillside. The project included hauling away 240,000 cubic yards of dirt to create a more stable slope, and moving the edge of the hill 12 feet back from the road.
The year-long effort to shore up
a hillside frustrated commuters
for five extra months
It took $7.8 million, five more months than planned, and caused traffic delays for Windward Oahu commuters, but the rockfall mitigation project at Castle Junction is finally finished.
"The project took some time," state Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa said. "But we decided against a Band-Aid solution because we didn't want to come out again and again to fix the problem. ... I think we turned something bad into something good."
In all, more than 240,000 cubic yards -- or about 24,000 truck loads -- of dirt were scooped from the Castle Junction hillside and dumped at Kaneohe Ranch and other sites, Ishikawa said.
The old slope had an angle of up to 90 degrees, Ishikawa said.
Also, part of the cliff was nearly hanging over Kalanianaole Highway's right-turn lane onto Kamehameha.
The hillside now has a 30-degree slope with stair-step landscaped terraces, which should keep stable in even the heaviest rains. The hill's edge has also been moved back from the road about 12 feet, Ishikawa said.
Crews started work on the project at the intersection of Pali, Kalanianaole and Kamehameha highways in January, and were originally set to be finished in July. Spates of bad weather held up completion, but the cost of the project stayed the same.
At about 3:15 p.m. yesterday, all lanes of Kalanianaole Highway near Castle Junction were reopened after the state finished restriping the right-turn lane onto Kamehameha Highway yesterday.
All that's left to do at the hillside is landscaping work, which will not affect traffic.
This Department of Transportation photo shows the hillside before the project. The hillside had angles as steep as 90 degrees, contributing to a slide onto the highway in May 2003.
"I think everybody's glad that it's over," said Jim Corcoran, a member of the Kailua Neighborhood Board. "The state DOT ... deserves a lot of credit for listening to the community and responding to the community's position."
He said the project's contractor, Goodfellow Bros., was convinced to haul dirt from the junction along a longer route to avoid worsening area traffic.
A contraflow lane was also opened during peak hours to make up for lost lanes.
As part of the project, the 8-foot right-turn lane onto Kamehameha Highway from Kalanianaole was widened to 12 feet.
An 8-foot shoulder and 6-foot drainage gutter were also added.
Ishikawa said the right-turn lane is 1,000 feet long and can hold up to 50 town-bound cars. It's expected to help traffic flow in the area because cars can turn after a stop without waiting for a green light.
The town-bound contraflow lane along Kalanianaole Highway from Kapaa Quarry Road to Castle Junction will no longer be set up, now that construction is complete. A private blessing ceremony of the project is set for tomorrow morning at the hillside.
Many Windward Oahu residents were originally opposed to the work, saying it would unnecessarily disrupt traffic.
Kailua Neighborhood Board Chair Katherine Bryant-Hunter said Castle Junction had been identified as one of the 10 most dangerous rockfall hazards along state roads. But the site was only one of five rockslide danger points "along that strip of the Pali," she added.
"Are we going to do this same magnitude of projects on every one of these sites and spend that kind of money?" Bryant-Hunter asked.
Ishikawa said the project was of special concern because the intersection is heavily trafficked. Also, he added, the project was expanded when cracks were found in the then-unstable hillside.
The Castle Junction project was put on an emergency fast track after a slide in May 2003 in which five truckloads of mud and dirt slid onto the highway.
Last December, heavy rains washed down more rain and debris.
One of the project's earliest delays came when the state couldn't negotiate an agreement with landowners Hawaii Pacific University and Teixeira Family Trust to allow workers access to the property.
The state eventually condemned the land, gaining ownership after paying $97,500 for the property.