Wilson Tunnel deemed safe despite ongoing repairs affecting Likelike Hwy.

Wilson Tunnel

Repairs continue on the Wilson Tunnel ceiling in the Honolulu-bound direction of Likelike Highway.

Crews reopened the right lane in time for Monday morning’s commute, however the left lane will remain closed until further notice, and officials say it could last for several weeks.

The state Department of Transportation closed the highway’s Honolulu-bound lanes at 5 p.m. Friday.

Officials said the rods supporting ceiling panels were possibly compromised, likely caused by normal wear and tear and not by a vehicle. Crews noticed the problem during a routine inspection Friday afternoon.

In a statement, DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara explained:

The tunnel ceiling is made of concrete slabs that rest on ledges along both side walls of each tunnel and are supported in the center by a stainless steel rod. Eight of the rods have disconnected from the ceiling and need to be repaired. We are investigating the cause of the deterioration. There is also spalling in some of the concrete areas near the vents. We will be inspecting the rest of the support rods and the ceiling to plan the best fix for the system.

Sakahara said crews shored the tunnel over the weekend, installing wooden support beams from floor to ceiling for temporary support. They also placed concrete barriers in the tunnel for safety and began making necessary repairs to the spalling concrete.

KHON2 spoke to Panos Prevedouros, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, to talk about the extent of the repairs.

He says “sections of (the tunnel’s ceiling) could have fallen, tiles, maybe more… It has happened in other tunnels.”

The tunnel was completed in 1960 and full inspections are done every two years. Visual inspections are done more frequently.

The state is doing the work, while a structural engineering consultant helps with the inspection and design of repairs.

They will continue to work to determine the cause and identify appropriate long-term repairs, Sakahara said.

If a right lane closure is necessary, Sakahara said officials will do their best to schedule it during non-peak commute hours.

Despite the work, Sakahara said the tunnel remains safe for drivers. The speed limit in the tunnel has been reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph.

Some drivers told KHON2 they plan to avoid Likelike Highway until the work is done because of traffic.

“It took me about an hour and 20 minutes to get into town today. It was pretty slow-going,” said Kaneohe resident Tim Caminos.

“If I had to go to take the Likelike, I would probably take the Pali or maybe even H-3,” said Kaneohe resident Elva Higashi.

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