State explains cause, fixes to metal joint that damaged vehicles along H-1


We’re learning more about what shut down multiple lanes of the H-1 Freeway this past weekend, and what some drivers say damaged their vehicles.

We’ve been following this story since 9 p.m. Saturday, when two ewa-bound lanes of the Middle Street ramp were closed for two hours.

Since then, we received photos showing scrapes and gashes to the bottom of a vehicle. The driver told us it happened this past weekend in the same location where others told us their vehicles were damaged.

On Monday, the state Department of Transportation said the metal from what’s called an expansion joint caused Saturday’s lane closures, likely due to its old age.

“A metal piece had some damage and occasionally what will happen is if there’s some damage, sometimes with all the cars traveling over it, the metal piece will actually flip upwards,” said transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara.

Expansion joints are located in many different areas of the state, including the area near the airport viaduct. The one that broke Saturday night measured six inches by 30 feet, and broke in half.

On Saturday night, crews filled the area where the expansion joint was with asphalt. Permanent fixes include customized metal to fit in that section, which could cost up to a quarter of a million dollars.

H-3 Freeway (Photo: Hawaii Department of Transportation)
H-3 Freeway (Photo: Hawaii Department of Transportation)

The DOT said this type of incident happens fewer than 10 times a year.

However, it just happened last November on the H-3 Freeway, which is a newer roadway. When asked about that incident, Sakahara responded, “a lot of factors go into it: age, usage, elements as well, and in that case, I believe that some of the elements, especially with all the moist weather up there.”

University of Hawaii civil engineering professor Panos Prevedouros said other factors could have caused Saturday’s incident.

“A very heavy vehicle could have gone over and essentially busted it out of its location,” Prevedouros said, “and last week we had two earthquakes and we kind of felt it. That might have something to do with it.”

“Is there anything that can be done to prevent this from happening? Can you check the stability of these expansion joints?” KHON2 asked.

“Well the department will be putting out a design-build contract which will go out and fix a number of these in a given year,” Sakahara said.

The state also checks on these metal pieces regularly.

The state said no one was has filed a claim for damage yet. If you would like to file a claim, click here or call (808) 586-0547.

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