Sinkhole shuts I-70 lane

March 31, 1998

FREDERICK, Md. - Crews from the Maryland State Highway Administration worked Monday to repair a sinkhole in the slow lane of Interstate 70 at South Street.

An eastbound lane of I-70 that was closed for more than three hours was reopened about 5:30 p.m. after a steel plate was placed over the sinkhole.

The plate was to remain in place through the night and a road crew was to return this morning to repair the sinkhole, according to highway officials.

An eastbound lane will be closed again today after morning rush hour, officials said.

The southeast section of Frederick County is prone to naturally occurring sinkholes because of the prevalence of underground limestone caves, according to officials at the Maryland Department of Environment.


A 30-foot sinkhole developed in November 1995 on East South Street in front of the entrance to Interstate 70.

In the 1995 incident, a Frederick man was injured when he had to climb from his station wagon, which ran into the 20-foot-deep hole and hung on the edge before falling in. Within 45 minutes after the man climbed free of the car, the hole grew to an estimated 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and 30 feet deep before stabilizing.

A sinkhole forms when soil erodes, in this case beneath the road bed, and a small hole opens, through which the soil and road materials on top get sucked in.

Sinkholes can be triggered by natural underground drainage systems, limestone quarries and construction that disrupts ground water flow.

These factors, combined with traffic vibrations, cause a weak spot in the soil that caves in, environmental officials said.

- Lisa Graybeal

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