WOOSTER — Drivers hoping to use the state Route 83-U.S. Route 250 bypass heading north discovered a blockage in the artery due to a sinkhole.
On Monday night, a motorist spotted a hole in the pavement and alerted the Wooster Post of the State Highway Patrol of the “pothole” around 9:30 p.m., said Lt. Chad Enderby, post commander. When a state trooper arrived on scene, the motorist, who was parked on the berm, showed him where the hole was.
“It was reported as a large pothole, … and we discovered it was much more than just a pothole,” Enderby said. The state trooper remained on scene for traffic control until crews from Ohio Department of Transportation District 3 arrived.
“When our crews got out there late (Monday) night, it was a sinkhole,” said Joyce Miller, spokeswoman for ODOT District 3. “We closed the road to traffic.”
The northbound lanes were closed about 10:15 p.m. Monday. While there is a dip in the southbound lanes, Miller said there are no plans to close the southbound lanes at this time.
Miller said ODOT engineers are not sure what caused the sinkhole and are still evaluating it, but they think the combination of some type of pre-existing void under the pavement and underground water movement caused the problem. There is a culvert 6 feet wide and 300 feet long buried 35 feet below the surface, and it extends underneath the entire width of the roadway, Miller said.
“It’s odd what is happening,” Miller said. “Water is moving around the outside of the pipe. … Water should not be around it; it should be moving through it.”
Last fall, ODOT crews noticed a dip in the pavement in the area of the sinkhole. Inspectors discovered there were parts of the culvert were not there any longer; it started to erode.
“We knew we needed to move quickly,” Miller said, adding Indiana Reline installed a structural liner inside the pipe and put in grout to seal it in December.
While the sinkhole has not been attributed to the culvert liner project, Miller said a crew from Indiana Reline is expected to be here Thursday to evaluate the integrity of the pipe and liner. The crew will arrive prepared to do work, she said.
The liner itself could have supported the road on its own, Miller said. “Had we not done this, the sinkhole could have been catastrophic.”
ODOT geotechnical engineers will also look at culvert and the integrity and determine what kind of earth work and dirt work might need to be done, Miller said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, ODOT had not set a timetable as to when the northbound lanes on the U.S. 250 Route bypass will reopen.
“We don’t want to move too quickly” in reopening the lanes, Miller said. While it might sound odd the agency does not want too move too quickly, she said ODOT officials want to make sure the road is safe and that the cause has been identified and corrected before allowing drivers and vehicles back on the highway.
Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or firstname.lastname@example.org.