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Driving in the dark is not the best way to get around.
But that’s what Oahu drivers are dealing with when they get onto the H-3 Freeway.
A long stretch of the freeway is in the dark because of a copper theft two months ago and it could be awhile for the lights to come back on.
“It’s dark,” driver LaBryanna Kubo said.
A three-mile stretch between the Halawa Interchange and the tunnels are without lights in both directions.
“Lights would’ve been very, very helpful,” driver David Juan said.
The Department of Transportation says 14,000 feet of copper wiring was stolen from the H-3 Freeway from April to early May. Stolen from highway street lighting, power and communications conduits. Several traffic cameras were also disabled.
Last month, police arrested Gregg Humel for copper theft and criminal trespassing. According to court documents, he broke through fences on private property under the H-3 to get to the copper.
When police caught up with him, he told them, “I never steal the copper. I found it under the bridge.”
Humel is at the Oahu Community Correctional Center and his bail is $50,000
“I think the people who do this need to be punished, seriously punished because it affects all of us,” Kubo said.
There’s no telling how long this will affect drivers but if history is any indicator, it could be years.
Copper thieves struck the H-1, knocking out the lights between Kapolei and Kunia. Fixing that 3-mile stretch, which is the same distance affected on the H-3 right now, took several years and $776,000 of taxpayer money.
Copper thieves also struck the H-2, knocking out lights between Waiawa and Wahiawa. Fixing the more than seven-mile stretch also took several years and more than $2 million.
The DOT bolts down the base of freeway lights and takes other steps, they couldn’t disclose to try to prevent this crime from happening. But drivers believe it’s not enough.
“It’s kind of jacked up, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it,” driver Maika Kubo said.
Anyone who sees suspicious activity around lights should call police. The state also wants to remind metal recyclers and scrap metal dealers that they are required by law to document copper-related purchases and to report suspicious sellers to police.