Video: Rail Guideway Reaches Waipahu
In the abstract, knowing that Honolulu's rail transit line won't be completed until 2019 makes the whole thing seem far off in the future. But with construction of the first three miles of elevated guideway now completed, the massive project looms very, very near for a lot of people.
I wrote in June about my fascination with the balanced cantilever construction method that connected a long segment of concrete directly over a busy freeway. As a daily commuter from Mililani to Iwilei and back, I saw the work progressing every day, occasionally taking special trips to document its progress with photos and video clips. It was certainly the most visible piece of the project to date, and one of the most complex from an engineering perspective.
The feat was even more noticeable because most of the elevated guideway that's been built so far runs through open fields and largely undeveloped, unimproved tracts of land in Kapolei. Prep work extends well into the urban core, of course, and closed lanes and jammed roads are already a fact of life for many neighborhoods. But when I think of rail construction, in my head, I usually see something like this:
But yesterday, on a long-overdue visit to Waipahu, I found that the rail construction project was much further along than I thought.
The elevated guideway had already crossed over Ft. Weaver Road (see top image), one of the highest elevations the line will reach along its path. And the huge yellow continuous-weld sliding truss that aligns and connects the concrete segments was no longer casting shadows on grass and dirt. Instead, it was standing astride Leoku Street and Farrington Highway, an always busy intersection at the west end of Waipahu.
The elevated guideway has now, without a doubt, escaped the roomy, master-planned acres of land out west and pierced right into the heart of a bustling former plantation town of nearly 40,000 people.
Hundreds of people now pass under it just walking to the grocery store. You can gaze at it from a table at McDonald's. Long-time residents can see it from their front door. And no doubt just about everyone in Waipahu is cursing the realigned, narrowed, and frequently pothole-filled Farrington Highway, the neighborhood's main artery.
Suddenly fearing I was late in capturing the project's entry into Waipahu, I took a drive along the route from Ft. Weaver Road in the west to Waipahu High School and the Waiawa Interchange in the east. With my trusty iPhone, some rubber bands, and some tweaking in iMovie, I put together a time-compressed video of the trip:
The video has already garnered over 5,000 views and has been shared by more than 60 people. As before, it has proven popular with both fans and opponents of the rail project, but since it also captures Waipahu in the midst of transition, many of the comments are also nostalgic.
In fact, as fun as the "Waipahu in 50 Seconds" video was, a couple of people wanted to savor the drive a little longer. I posted a three-minute version for them.
Work still continues along the whole length of the planned 20-mile rail line, the project now entering its fourth mile (nearing a fifth of its total length). According to city officials, more than 3,000 concrete guideway segments have been cast so far, and production has now expanded to make them both for the route in Waipahu along Farrington Highway as well as for the route in Pearl City along Kamehameha Highway.
For freeway commuters, the good news is that H-1 lane closures are a thing of the past for westbound traffic, and the last eastbound lane closures will happen in the next month or so. But a lot of work remains throughout the busy Waiawa Interchange, with balanced cantilever construction continuing to extend the line toward Leeward Community College on one end, and toward Pearl Highlands Center on the other.
For updates on the rail transit project, visit HonoluluTransit.org. The project's monthly video news show (hosted by former television news reporter Bill Brennan) may also be worth watching.