Traffic nightmare ends with opening of extra H-1 lane through Pearl City


Heavy rain and a scheduled concrete pour created a major traffic jam on the freeway Sunday.

The state poured concrete Saturday night as part of a project to widen the freeway. With Sunday’s heavy rain, the state was forced to extend the lane closures to wait for the concrete to dry.

The traffic caught a lot of drivers by surprise, backing up cars from Waipahu to Aiea Heights Road, and there was no way around it as Kamehameha Highway and Moanalua Road were just as bad.

“I don’t think they should have done it at that time due to the weather, just the weather itself made traffic terrible,” said Salt Lake resident Angela Kaina.

“For them to go ahead and pour concrete when they knew they were going to have some rain yesterday doesn’t make any sense. That’s just poor planning on their part,” said Kapolei resident Adam Halemano.

Many KHON2 viewers were upset and asked us to find out why the state went ahead with the work.

Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, says with the freeway widening project so close to being finished, the state decided it was worth the risk.

“We wanted to get it done faster because even right now, if we didn’t work this past weekend, this lane would not be open right now,” he said. “It would be another week and who knows. There’s no guarantee it wasn’t going to rain next weekend as well.”

Sakahara says that chance is now paying off for all westbound commuters. That’s because on Monday, the state opened the entire length of that extra lane in Pearl City, thanks to the work that was done this weekend.

Sakahara says the Pearl City corridor is considered the busiest in the entire state. On average, 2,000 cars travel on each lane per hour. With the entire extra lane now open, that’s another 2,500 feet, or nearly a half-mile lane, going through Pearl City.

“Certainly, that’s 2,000 cars that weren’t crammed into the existing lanes before so now there should be less queueing at the Waipahu off-ramp for the people going to Waipahu,” Sakahara said.

Sakahara adds that those weekend concrete pours that wound up closing up to three lanes the following day are over. There will still be some overnight closures for things like guardrail work, but they should not be as painful.

“There won’t be those big lane closures where we had to close on Saturday night, close lanes all Sunday and not open them again until early 4 a.m. Monday morning. Those are now done,” Sakahara said.

According to an engineer, rain does not damage the concrete, and a little water is good for the drying process. But the heavy rain meant it did take longer for the concrete to dry.

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