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Sinkhole disrupts traffic on Maugans Avenue

May 14, 2007|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MAUGANSVILLE

A fist-sized puncture in the shoulder of Maugans Avenue on Sunday night grew overnight into a gaping hole.

Beneath the street's surface, where water eroded the limestone, the chasm was greater. Joseph Kroboth III, the county's public works director, said the sinkhole was about 20 feet at a narrow point and about 30 feet at its widest.

The depth varied from about 22 feet to more than 30 feet, he said.

County officials said they expected to plug both the hole and the underground caverns that jutted out like wings by the end of Monday night.

One lane of Maugans Avenue was closed while the sinkhole was filled.

A Washington County emergency dispatcher said the lane reopened at about 9:45 p.m.

Monday afternoon, when the bed of a dump truck tilted up, boulders tumbled out, into the hole, kicking up dust.

A worker in an excavator lowered a bucket into the sinkhole to stuff rocks into cavern openings.

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"This is not delicate work," said Terry McGee, the county's chief engineer.

He said larger rocks would be the foundation to plug up the hole, then smaller rocks would be placed on top of them. A "flowable fill" mixture would be added for the last eight to 10 feet below road level.

C. William Hetzer Inc. of Hagerstown, the contractor that has a $7.4 million contract to widen Maugans Avenue, worked on the sinkhole repair.

The road was limited to eastbound traffic from Interstate 81 to U.S. 11 while the repair was under way.

Westbound traffic was diverted to Showalter Road, which is another I-81 access point.

The sinkhole will not affect the Maugans Avenue widening project, other than the loss of a work day, McGee said. The cost of the quick fix wasn't known Monday.

The construction project already has been delayed.

Maugans Avenue will be widened from two lanes to five lanes. Turn lanes will be added. Traffic signals will be installed at the I-81 ramps.

The sinkhole occurred naturally and was not connected to the road project, Kroboth said.

On Sunday night, someone noticed a small hole in the shoulder of the road in front of Maugans Avenue Car Wash, McGee said.

By 6 a.m., the hole was much larger, so workers were brought in to repair it, he said.

The hole at street level was torn open Monday so workers could get at the bedrock.

McGee said another sinkhole developed, and was filled, a short distance away on Maugans Avenue in the past.

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