Interstate H3 travels 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 I-H1 and I-H201 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 elevation of 840 feet above sea level (the Halawa portal is 1,305 feet above sea level).2
Emerging from the tunnels, Interstate H-3 arcs southward along the windward side of the Koolau Range. The freeway utilizes a high viaduct above Haiku Valley 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, connecting H3 with LikeLike Highway (Route 63) north to Puohala Village.
The remainder of H3 arcs east and north by Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden, a parclo interchange with Kamehameha Highway (Route 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
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 long Trans-Koolau Tunnels, which lead the freeway under the Koolau Range. Interstate H-3 fully opened on December 12, 1997.3
West End – Halawa Heights, Hawaii
Westbound I-H3 ends at the Halawa Interchange with I-H1 and I-H201 (former Route 78) in Honolulu. Photo by Oscar Voss (11/01).
East End – Kanoehe Marine Corps Base Hawaii
- History of Interstate H-3 by the Hawaii Department of Transportation
- Sanders, C. (1993, Summer) H3: The Island Interstate. Public Roads, Retrieved from http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/publicroads/93summer/p93su16.cfm
- Hawaii Department of Transportation: Interstate H-3
Page updated July 4, 2022.