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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kolekole Pass may reopen for military use on Friday

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

After heavy rains in December dumped rocks on Kolekole Pass and undercut a hillside below the roadway, the Navy closed the emergency access route. The Navy hopes to reopen one lane on Friday.

Navy Region Hawai'i

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The military-controlled Kolekole Pass road, used as an emergency access route for the Wai'anae Coast, has remained closed after the heavy rains of Dec. 11 dumped rocks on the Navy side and severely undercut a hillside below the roadway.

About 200 military ID card holders daily use the shortcut linking Naval Munitions Command Lualualei and Schofield Barracks through a low spot in the Wai'anae Range, officials said. The route is not open to the public.

The Navy hopes to reopen one lane on Kolekole Pass on Friday for military card-holder use, but said it faces longer-term repair costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The work is expected to be contracted out and take several months.

The Navy said there was a "moderate-sized landslide below and next to the road, and erosion undermining of pavement along the edges of the road."

Rocks that littered the roadway have been cleared away.

Navy Region Hawai'i, which has responsibility for the Navy's side of the pass, said the hope is that on Friday, one lane can be reopened for two to three hours in the morning, and for a similar time in the afternoon.

Military commuters would be allowed access to Kolekole Pass from the Lualualei side in the morning, and from the Schofield side in the afternoon, the Navy said.

Normally, the pass is open from 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week. Two checkpoints provide access control. Barricades will be in place to direct traffic when a single lane opens, officials said.

Wai'anae Valley resident Kathy Paaaina said she regularly used Kolekole Pass to pick up medication at a pharmacy on Schofield Barracks and for stops at the commissary.

"I go to Schofield, get my medication, and I go over Kolekole Pass and I'm home," said Paaaina, whose husband is retired from the Air Force. "When it's high traffic time, it cuts three hours off my drive."

Kolekole Pass has seen rockslides and erosion in the past, and is not open to large commercial vehicles, the Navy said. In May, the pass was temporarily closed while crews removed basketball-sized rocks.

The twisting route was constructed by the Army's 3rd Engineers in 1937 across a low spot in the Wai'anae Range.

A call has been made periodically for the four-mile road to be opened to the public as an alternative to Farrington Highway, the only access to the Wai'anae Coast and frequent site of traffic jams and blockages from accidents and natural disasters.

But because of security concerns, the military has kept Kolekole Pass closed to the public, opening it only during emergencies.

Most recently, Kolekole was opened to the public on Dec. 7, 2007, to alleviate storm-related congestion on the Wai'anae Coast, the Navy said. In March 2006, the pass was used for emergency access after high winds blew down a dozen utility poles across Farrington Highway.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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