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Hawaii Route 63; the Likelike Highway


Hawaii Route 63 is a 7.3 mile long State Highway mostly known as the Likelike Highway.  Hawaii Route 63 is one of three highways that crosses the Ko'olau Range of the Island of O'ahu.  Hawaii Route 63 originates at Hawaii Route 92/Nimitz Highway near downtown Honolulu and terminates eastward at Hawaii Route 83 in Kaneohe.  Hawaii Route 63 is largely known for the John H. Wilson Tunnels which allow direct access from Kalihi Valley through the summit of the Ko'olau Range to Kaneohe Bay. 




Part 1; the history of Hawaii Route 63 and the John H. Wilson Tunnels

During World War II the territory of Hawaii saw an influx of military activity following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941.  Numerous Military Routes and early Hawaii Routes were signed through the Hawaiian Territory to aid military personnel in navigating the islands.  Military Highways were assigned US Route style shields whereas lesser highways were assigned an early variation of what is now the Hawaii Route Spade.  A 1946 Army Map of the Island of O'ahu shows the existing highway following through Kalihi Valley following Kalihi Street as Hawaii Route 140 ("HI 140").  HI 140 unlike the modern alignment of HI 63 terminated in Kalihi Valley and did not cross the Ko'olau Range.  A full version of the 1946 Army Map of O'ahu can be seen on hawaiihighways.com here.  


On January 8th, 1954 Honolulu County began excavation of the westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel through the Kaneohe Bay side of the Ko'olau Range to existing HI 140 in Kalihi Valley.  The excavation of the westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel was halted on August 14th, 1954 when the excavated segment collapsed.  The collapse of the westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel killed five construction workers and halted further work. 

Circa 1955 following the conclusion of World War II the United States Bureau of Public Roads renumbered the Hawaii Route System.  The 1955 Hawaii Route renumbering saw most of the conventions utilized by the current Hawaii State Route System established.  Primary Hawaii Routes were given two digit numbers whereas Secondary Hawaii Routes were given three digit numbers.  The Hawaii Routes were assigned in sequence for what Island/County they were located on coupled with what Federal Aid Program number they were tied to.  In the case of O'ahu the Island was assigned numbers in the range of 60-99.  HI 140 was subsequently renumbered to HI 63 during due it being designated a primary highway.  A far more detailed explanation of the 1955 Hawaii Route Renumbering can be found at hawaiihighways.com here.  

Work on the westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel resumed during early 1956 which was followed by construction of the eastbound tunnel beginning in 1957.  The planned realignment of HI 63 and the location the of John H. Wilson Tunnels construction zone at the end of Kalihi Street can be observed on the 1956 Shell Highway Map of Honolulu.  Notably the 1956 Shell Highway Map shows the planned highway to the John H. Wilson Tunnels as the "Kalihi Approach Road."


The full scale of the planned alignment of HI 63 across the Ko'olau Range can be seen on the 1956 Shell Highway Map of the Hawaiian Islands.  


The westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel opened to traffic on October 30th, 1958 and would service two-way traffic in interim until the eastbound tunnel opened.  The eastbound John H. Wilson Tunnel opened to traffic on November 22nd, 1960 which completed HI 63 across the Ko'olau Range.  Note; on August 21st 1959 Hawaii became the 50th State.  

In full scope HI 63 originally began eastbound from HI 92 at Nimitz Highway in Honolulu.  Eastbound from HI 92 the alignment of HI 63 followed Kalihi Street to a junction with Interstate H-1.  From Interstate H-1 the alignment of HI 63 eastbound followed the Likelike Highway across the Ko'olau Range via the John H. Wilson Tunnels to HI 83 in Kaneohe.  From HI 83 the alignment of HI 63 continued eastbound via Kaneohe Bay Drive towards Marine Corps Base Hawaii at the Mokapu Peninsula.  From the Mokapu Peninsula the original alignment of HI 63 eastbound followed Kalaeho Avenue and turned inland via Kuulei Road to a mutual terminus at HI 61 in Kailua.  

The full original scale of HI 63 can be see on the 1966 postcard below hosted on hawaiiroads.com.  What was HI 63 east of Interstate H-3 has since been relinquished.  The alignment from HI 83 east to Interstate H-3 became HI 630 and later modern HI 65.  


During 1998 the John H. Wilson Tunnels were transferred from Honolulu County maintenance to the Hawaii Department of Transportation.  Since 1998 there has been no substantial changes to the alignment of HI 63.  



Part 2; a drive westbound on Hawaii State Route 63 from Hawaii State Route 83 to Interstate H-1

HI 63 westbound begins in Kaneohe at Likelike Highway from the junction of HI 83/Kamehameha Highway and HI 65/Kaneohe Bay Drive.  Interestingly the beginning of HI 63 westbound is co-signed as "TO HI 83" implying a brief multiplex of HI 83 northbound.  



HI 63/Likelike Highway westbound crosses Kamo'oali'i Stream and intersects HI 83/Kahekili Highway.  







HI 63/Likelike Highway west of HI 83 junctions Interstate H-3 approaching the Ko'olau Range.  



HI 63/Likelike Highway west from Interstate H-3 climbs into the Ko'olau Range and enters the westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel.  Notably the Likelike Highway (pronounced "LEE-kay-LEE-kay") is named in honor of Hawaiian Princess Miriam Likelike.  Miriam Likelike was the last heir to the Hawaiian throne prior to the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  The John H. Wilson Tunnels are named after the former Honolulu Mayor who oversaw the construction the 1898 Nu'uanu Pali Highway (the original alignment of HI 61).  The westbound John H. Wilson Tunnel bore is 2,775 feet in length.  








Below the 2,813 foot long eastbound John H. Wilson Tunnel bore can be seen. 


HI 63/Likelike Highway westbound emerges from the John H. Wilson Tunnels into Kalihi Valley.



HI 63/Likelike Highway westbound descends through Kalihi Valley into Honolulu and intersects Interstate H-1.  From Interstate H-1 the alignment of HI 63 westbound transitions onto Kalihi Street and follows it to a terminus at HI 92/Nimitz Highway.  














Part 3; Roadwaywiz tours Hawaii Route 63

During May of 2019 the Roadwaywiz YouTube Channel operated by Dan Murphy (also of Gribblenation) featured a driving tour of HI 63.  Below HI 63 from HI 92 via Kalihi Street to Interstate H-1 can be seen. 


Below HI 63 eastbound from Interstate H-1 to HI 83 via the John H. Wilson Tunnels can be observed. 



Below HI 63 westbound from HI 83 to Interstate H-1 can be observed.



Below HI 63 westbound from Interstate H-1 to HI 92 can be observed. 


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