DOVER — A giant sinkhole devoured several acres of land and part of a state highway which had to be closed.
The hole, estimated by the local fire chief to be the size of four football fields, swallowed up part of State Route 516 in Dover. The road will have to be closed for months while engineers determine the best way to make permanent repairs.
“I’ve worked for ODOT sixteen years and I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude,” said Ohio Department of Transportation District 11 Director Lloyd McAdam. “It’s very unusual that something like this would happen.”
McAdam told WKYC a pond near the road collapsed and created the sinkhole. The pond and the land which sank belong to the Newton Asphalt Company, which had been dredging for sand as much as 50 feet deep.
“It appears to me that dredging took away the bottom of the slope,” McAdam theorized, “and that probably eroded away and started cascading down, and just started filling the hole and filling the hole.”
Newton employees immediately made their way to State Route 516 to stop traffic, McAdam said, and notified authorities of what had happened.
Hank Rutkowski, a mechanical engineer who works only a few hundred yards from the sinkhole, says a man who works in the same building was just about to drive where the sinkhole was rapidly forming.
“There was a car coming down this road right about at the end when it was still driveable,” Rutkowski said. “Mike started waving his arms to stop traffic. That person might have been lucky.”
Engineers will continue inspecting the sinkhole and may eventually consider building a bridge over the affected area. ODOT’s McAdam predicted it would be until 2013 that permanent repairs would be made.
“It’s going to be a while before the road is open because this is a significant fix, and we’re entering winter season where not a whole lot of construction can take place.”
Traffic was being detoured on State Route 39 and State Route 93, and local detours are also in place. Motorists were being urged to plan ahead to avoid signficant delays over the next several months.