Prep work begins for rail pillars on H-1 Freeway

Construction crews are getting ready to build one of the most challenging parts of Honolulu’s rail project over the H-1 Freeway near the Waipahu exit.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation released a rendering of the area with pillars as high as 35 feet on the freeway, taller than the ones being built in Kapolei.

“Most of the rail route is going to be along the median of a highway or a road, but at some point, we’re going to cross the H-1/H-2 interchange,” said Scott Ishikawa, spokesperson for HART.

Although construction will start this summer, prep work for these pillars will begin this week. That means the left lane of the H-1 Freeway in the town-bound direction will be closed at the Waiawa Interchange for three nights beginning on Tuesday.

“Along the grassy medians between the freeway lanes, we’re going to be building this giant pier column, and it goes up in the air,” Ishikawa said. “From there, we’re going to build the guideway out one side and then build it out the other side and then keep going step by step.”

Recent court rulings have given the 20-mile route the green light. Officials plan to build five pillars on the H-1, which will connect the rail line between Waipahu and Pearl City. They say building over the merge will be one of the most challenging parts of this project.

Some residents are keeping an open mind about rail. “We probably wouldn’t know unless we put it into effect and see how the outcomes comes out,” said Mililani resident Kahealani Tua.

But the majority of people we showed the rendering to didn’t like the future image of the freeway. “It looks too crowded,” said Trey Ah Yuen. “It doesn’t look like there’s going to be enough space. It just doesn’t look like Hawaii.”

“It looks like the Mainland,” said Bryanna Oyadomari. “Everyone comes to Hawaii for paradise and everything. Having the rail… No, I don’t like it.”

Rail officials say they’re working with the state on construction dates and times, since both are closing lanes for different projects.

“We’re trying to do the work where it causes the least impact to drivers,” Ishikawa said.

Construction of the pillars on the H-1 should be completed within a year.

More pillars will be built on the freeway, near the Sears Distribution Center, with construction expected next year.

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