Hawaii Highways road photos -- Interstate H-3

(Oahu part 1 of 6 -- other Oahu parts: Interstate H-1 · Other Freeways ·
Other Oahu South · Other Oahu West · Other Oahu East)

Here are 18 photos (most of them mine) of the gorgeous Interstate H-3 across Oahu, completed in 1997. Following these photos are links to still more photos, and to additional information about the freeway's long and sometimes difficult history.

NOTE: In case you want more detail, you can click some of the photos below (for now, mainly the ones from my 2001 trip) to view an enlarged, higher-quality (less .jpg compression) version. Those alternate versions have larger file sizes, so please be patient while they download.

View of Kaneohe Bay from H-3 viaduct
A scenic view of Kaneohe Bay, from the H-3 viaduct exiting the Tetsuo Harano tunnels through the Koolau Range, showing why H-3 is widely considered one of the nation's most beautiful Interstates. For environmental and historic preservation reasons, H-3 was built mostly as tunnel or viaduct. That contributed to the highway's $1.3 billion price tag (probably the most expensive Interstate per mile, until Boston's "Big Dig" blew that record out of the water), but at least the designers made it a very scenic route. (September 1999)
Wide view of H-3 junction with Moanalua Freeway West end of H-3, just past Moanalua Freeway exit
Interstate H-3's west end is technically at the junction with the Moanalua Freeway (Interstate H-201, back when it was signed as state route 78), though driving straight ahead through the junction will take you onto long ramps to westbound and eastbound Interstate H-1. The photo on the left is an overview of the junction, from the westbound roadway north of the junction. The photo on the right shows the unmarked formal end of H-3, 0.04 miles past the exit 1B off-ramp to the eastbound Moanalua Freeway. (Both photos November 2001)
Exit onto Interstate H-3, from Interstate H-201/Hawaii 78
The exit to H-3 from the Moanalua Freeway eastbound. H-3 was built with sophisticated computerized traffic management systems, including the electronic display on this overhead exit sign. (May 2000)
H-3 viaduct, past cement plant in lower Halawa Valley
H-3 continues north on its least glamorous section, passing through an industrial area (and also past a state prison) in the southern end of the Halawa Valley, just north of the Moanalua Freeway junction. (Both photos May 2000)
H-3 westbound past cement plant
60 mph speed limit sign on H-3
Hawaii was the last of the 50 states to hang on to the speed limit imposed by the old 55 mph National Maximum Speed Limit. In 2002, Hawaii DOT lightened up a little (a byproduct of public outcry over a short-lived photo speed enforcement program), posting a few stretches of freeway at 60 mph (none yet at 65 mph or higher), like this stretch of H-3 entering the Halawa Valley northeast toward the Koolau Range. (October 2004, courtesy of Ryan Ozawa)
The H-3 viaduct through the more scenic part of the Halawa Valley, as it approaches from the west the tunnels through the Koolau Range. At the lower right is an access road winding through the valley underneath the freeway, which begins at the back of an HDOT maintenance yard, and is closed to the general public. (May 2000)
H-3 through scenic Halawa Valley, approaching tunnels
West portal of Interstate H-3 tunnels through Koolau Range East portal of Interstate H-3 tunnels through Koolau Range
The west and east portals, respectively, of H-3's Tetsuo Harano Tunnels, about a mile long, through the Koolau Range. (Both photos September 1999)
Inside of eastbound Tetsuo Harano tunnel, approaching east portal
Eastbound H-3 approaches the east portal of the Tetsuo Harano tunnels through the Koolau Range, where it will continue on a long viaduct above the Ha'iku Valley. The tunnel has two full lanes in each direction, with full shoulders, and raised reflectors delineating the lanes and shoulders. (October 2004, courtesy of Ryan Ozawa)

An overview of the H-3 east portal and the twin windward viaducts approaching the portal, from the scenic but strenuous "Stairway to Heaven" trail above Ha'iku Valley. The trail is currently closed, though it has been completely revamped and efforts are underway to reopen it. (Photo courtesy of Michael Gawley.)
View of H-3, high from the Stairway to Heaven
H-3 twin viaducts east of Tetsuo Harano tunnels, facing east H-3 twin viaducts east of Tetsuo Harano tunnels, facing west, with trail underneath
Two views of the twin viaducts between the Tetsuo Harano and Hospital Rock tunnels, to the east (above left), and to the west with a glimpse of a trail running under the viaducts (above right). (Both photos November 2001)
H-3 viaduct east of tunnels, above Ha'iku H-3 tunnels through Hospital Rock
The H-3 twin viaducts approaching the tunnels' east portal, as they pass above the community of Ha'iku.  (September 1999)
The viaducts' eastern end, at the cut-and-cover Hospital Rock tunnels. (September 1999)
H-3 from Nuuanu Pali overlook H-3 eastbound past Koolau Range
H-3 east of the Hospital Rock tunnels, from the Nuuanu Pali overlook off state route 61 (more Nuuanu Pali photos on another page). (September 1999)
H-3 eastbound, with the Koolau Range to the right. (September 1999)
H-3 east end at entrance to Marine Corps base, past Freeway Ends sign
Two views of H-3's east end, at the main gate to Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii. The photo above was taken in September 1999; the one below, in May 2000. H-3's exact east end is 26 feet past the culvert from which I took the 2000 photo, within the crossover just short of the guard station (so unless the crossover is blocked to prevent a U-turn, you can cover every inch of H-3 without having to clear Kaneohe MCBH security).
H-3 east end at entrance to Marine Corps base

Some other sites:

Hawaii DOT's Interstate H-3 page has information on the highway and its history, including a booklet with several gorgeous aerial photos of the highway before it was completed in 1997, and a motorists' guide with lots of detail about the Tetsuo Harano Tunnels and other freeway features. See also Hawaii DOT's home page, also featuring an aerial photo of the H-3 viaduct as it approaches the east portal of the tunnels through the Koolau Range.

An article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin just before H-3's completion, one on the highway's opening day, and a diagram of the Trans-Koolau tunnels in a third article, provide various interesting details about Interstate H-3's construction and history, including some photographs and illustrations.

Articles in engineering publications about Interstate H-3 (all with photos):

Craig Sanders, H3: The Island Interstate, Public Roads, Summer 1993 (lots of construction photos)
Ray Bert, "Paradise Crossed", Civil Engineering, July 1998
Barbara Braswell, "Pride in Accomplishment: Completing the Interstate H-3", Public Roads, May/June 1998
Mark Furqueron's Hawaii road photos page has some more H-3 photos.

In addition, Ryan Ozawa's new HawaiiRoads.com site has lots of additional H-3 photos.

Malamapono's Home Pageand another article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin just before H-3's completion, describe the objections of some native Hawaiians to the H-3 project (particularly its routing through the Halawa Valley, the legendary birthplace of the Hawaiian earth mother Papa, and its impact on many ancient Hawaiian temples and other sites there and some east of the mountains), and their belief that Interstate H-3 has been subjected to a "hewa" (curse) as a result. You can't say you haven't been warned! (However, the funny stuff that supposedly occurred during construction seems to have died down once the freeway was opened -- H-3 has a sophisticated accident monitoring system due to its relatively remote location, and maybe the gods don't like to perform on camera ;-)

Go to the previous or next parts of the Hawaii Highways road photos collection:

Link to go back to introduction pages
to Introduction (road signs, etc.)
Link to continue to Interstate H-1 page (Oahu part 2)
to Interstate H-1 (Oahu part 2)

or directly to other parts:

Overview · Other Freeways · Other Oahu South · Other Oahu West
Other Oahu East · Kuhio Highway · Other Kauai · Hana Highway
Piilani Highway · Kahekili Highway · Other Maui · Lanai/Molokai
Kalawao County · Saddle Road · Observatories Roads · Lava Closures
Red Road · Waipio Valley · Other Big Island

or to other sections of the Hawaii Highways site:

Link to Hawaii Highways main page Link to Hawaii Highways, Oahu route list Link to Hawaii Highways, Oahu Freeways exit guides

Comments, etc.? Please e-mail me.

© 1999-2006 Oscar Voss.