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Interstate H-3

A rainbow graces Interstate H-3 (John A. Burns Freeway) as it climbs east from Pearl Harbor toward the Mokapu Peninsula. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/06).


Interstate H3 winds eastward from Aiea to the Marine Corps Base Hawaii (MCBH) on the Mokapu Peninsula. Constituting one of the most scenic routes along the Interstate system, the freeway provides a high-speed route across the Koolau Range between the leeward and windward sides of Oahu.

I-H3 originates at the Halawa Interchange, where Interstates H-1 and H-201 come together near Aloha Stadium and Halawa Heights. The freeway runs eastward from there through a valley fed by North Halawa Stream to the Koolau Range. Six miles east of H1, Interstate H-3 reaches the Tetsuo Harano (Trans-Koolau) Tunnels (Halawa portal) at an altitude of 840 feet above sea level (the Halawa portal is 1,305 feet above sea level).2

Emerging from the tunnels, Interstate H-3 circles southward along the windward side of the Koolau Range. The freeway utilizes a high viaduct above Haiku Valley through to the 690 foot long Hospital Rock Tunnel2 across the north slope of Pu'u Keahi a Kahoe Mountain. The first exit along eastbound follows to connect with the LikeLike Highway (Hawaii 63) north to Puohala Village.

The remainder of H3 arcs east and north by Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, a parclo interchange with Kamehameha Highway (Hawaii 83) and the Oneawa Hills at Mahinui. H3 concludes at the main gate to Kaneohe MCAS beyond a causeway between Nuupia Pond and Kaneohe Bay.


The route of Interstate H-3 was incorporated in the 51.2 mile addition to the Eisenhower Interstate and Defense Highway System for Hawaii as part of the Statehood Act of 1960.1 Planning for Interstate H-3 continued through the 1960s, and it underwent an environmental study during the 1970s in accordance with National Environmental Policy Act of 1970. Construction began but was stalled in the mid-1980s after a series of legal challenges and court hearings. In August 1984, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Interstate H-3 would negatively impact adjacent Hoomaluhia Park, which was created in conjunction with the new freeway. For the ensuing two years the completion of this highway was uncertain. However, in October 1986, President Reagan signed into a law a Congressional bill authorizing an exemption for Interstate H-3, thus allowing the freeway construction to resume.2

Looking west, Interstate H-3 ascends toward the Trans-Koolau Tunnels. Photo taken by Jeff Royston (02/05/06).

After the legal challenges ended, the technical challenges continued. The next structure built along Interstate H-3 was the North Halawa Valley access road between 1986 and 1989. Hospital Rock Tunnel, a cut and cover tunnel, was constructed in the late 1980s. Construction of the North Halawa Viaduct and Windward Viaduct followed in the early 1990s, as did construction of the one-mile Trans-Koolau Tunnels, which carries the freeway under the Koolau Range. Interstate H-3 opened on December 12, 1997.3

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Kanoehe Marine Corps Base Hawaii
Perspective from Eastbound Interstate H-3
Eastbound Interstate H-3 ends at entrance to the Kanoehe Marine Corps Base Hawaii. No END shields are present, but the yellow End Freeway sign indicates that the freeway terminates at the base. Photo taken by Oscar Voss, 09/99.
Perspective from Westbound Interstate H-3
Upon leaving the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Interstate H3 begins with a speed limit of 35 miles per hour. Photo taken by Jeff Royston, 01/30/06.
Arguably the most scenic 12-mile stretch on any section of the Interstate Highway System, this mileage sign provides the distance to Pearl Harbor via Interstate H3. To the north, beautiful Kaneohe Bay and the city of Kaneohe simmer in the evening sun. Photo taken by Jeff Royston, 01/30/06.
The first exit along eastbound Interstate H-3 is Exit 11, Junction Hawaii 83. Use Hawaii 83 north to Kaneohe, Kahaluu, Hauula, and Laie. There are two alternate routes to Interstate H3 through the Koolau Range: Hawaii 63/Like Like Highway and Hawaii 61. Both routes are accessible via Hawaii 83, but the best way to Hawaii 63 is to continue west on Interstate H-3 until Exit 9, Junction Hawaii 63. Use Hawaii 83 south to Hawaii 61. Photo taken by Jeff Royston, 01/30/06.
Eastern Terminus - Interstate H-1 - Halawa Heights, Hawaii
Perspective from Eastbound Interstate H-3
This sign designates Interstate H-3 as the John A. Burns Freeway after the Halawa Interchange. It is found alongside the freeway as it ascends toward the Trans-Koolau Tunnels. Photos taken by Jeff Royston, 02/05/06.
Perspective from Westbound Interstate H-3
Westbound Interstate H-3 ends at its junction with Interstate H-1 and Interstate H-201 (former Hawaii 78) in Honolulu at the Halawa Interchange. While Interstate H-3 ends at Interstate H-201/Hawaii 78, westbound traffic can continue onto ramps to Interstate H-1 through the complex interchange. Photo taken by Oscar Voss, 11/01.
Views of Kaneohe Bay from Eastbound Interstate H-3
These views of Kaneohe Bay are afforded along eastbound Interstate H-3. Photos taken by Jeff Royston, 02/05/06.


  1. History of Interstate H-3 by the Hawaii Department of Transportation
  2. Sanders, C. (1993, Summer) H3: The Island Interstate. Public Roads, Retrieved from
  3. Hawaii Department of Transportation: Interstate H-3

Page Updated July 8, 2015.

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State Hawaii
Mileage 15.32
Cities Honolulu
Junctions Interstate H-1, Interstate H-201
Source: December 31, 2014 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
The 1975 Rand McNally North American Road Atlas was the first edition to show Interstate H-3 complete from Mokapu Saddle Road (Hawaii 65) north to the MCBH Kaneohe Bay.
The 1983 Rand McNally atlas showed I-H3 extended southward to Kamehameha Highway (Hawaii 83) at Exit 11, while the 1982 Gousha atlas showed it already open.