A major road in and out of Vevay and parts of Switzerland County was closed for nearly 24 hours late last week after a large sinkhole appeared.
At approximately 10:15 p.m. last Thursday night Switzerland County dispatch began to receive numerous calls reporting a large hole in State Road 156 on the west side of the bridge over Plum Creek. Indiana State Police officer Ned Dayadharum was the first to arrive at the scene, and secured the area for traffic safety. He was soon joined by officers from the Switzerland County Sheriff’s office and members of the Jefferson-Craig Fire Department. Those workers assessed the situation while workers from the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Aurora Subdistrict came to the area.
State Road 156 is the major roadway leading from Vevay to the Markland Dam, and is used by many residents who work on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River; as well as commercial truck traffic coming from and going to the industries in Kentucky. It is also a vital roadway for student and school bus traffic going to Switzerland County Schools.
Chris See of the Jeff-Craig Fire Department said that the hole measured roughly 10-feet by 10-feet, and was about 20-feet deep. Luckily, the hole was not on the bridge itself, but on the edge of the roadway leading to the bridge.
“With all of the flooding that we’ve had in the area, the floodwaters had eroded the dirt and fill away,” See said. “From the amount of dirt that has been taken away, it’s probably been happening (the erosion) since late February or early March. With all of the traffic that the road gets, we’re lucky that it didn’t collapse while someone was driving over it.”
Workers and officials from INDOT arrived at the area late on Thursday night, and after looking over the damage, estimated that they could have the roadway back open to traffic sometime on Friday.
Harry Maginity, Media Relations Director for the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Seymour District, said that maintenance workers from INDOT worked all day on Friday to fix the problem.
“It was about a 13’x9’ hole, and it was just in advance of the bridge itself,” Maginity said. “The bridge is an old arch bridge over Plum Creek. It didn’t really affect the structural integrity of the bridge. Those bridges are usually really, really solid, unless something were to happen to the span walls.”
Maginity said that the damage occurred right up to the facing of the bridge, and was a washout caused by the flooding.
“They used different materials, then topped it with stone after they got it filled up, and then they did asphalt over the top of it to put pavement down for the road,” he said. “They got the road open about 11 p.m. on Friday night.”
Maginity said that the charge of INDOT was to make sure the bridge was safe and to restore traffic to the roadway, and that was accomplished in approximately 24 hours after the issue was reported.
“A lot of times you will have a bridge approach, which is a slab going into the bridge, well this is not the type of bridge that had that type of approach,” Maginity said. “It was pavement right up to it, and then of course it was paved over the bridge. So it was the road that really washed out.”
Maginity saluted the INDOT workers from the Aurora Subdistrict who worked long hours to get the road open again.
The work done on the area stabilized the roadway, and was not merely a temporary patch that will be worked on at a later date.
“You’re asking, one, is it permanent?”, Maginity answered. “Well, I don’t think we see a whole lot of permanence, anyplace. When you’ve got this kind of weather that we’ve had. I think that as far as filling the hole and using the different materials that they put down, I think that was a good fix. As far as, is the pavement on top, is that a permanent fix, or will they come back and mill it? I’m not over there. I’m not looking at it. Our goal was to get the road back open and make sure that the conditions are safe.”
Maginity said that the maintenance director of INDOT said that they anticipate that the fill that was put into the hole will sink as it settles, so workers at INDOT will come back to the area after the fill settles and put more fill in; and will also do scour protection at the bridge.
Bridge scour is the removal of sediment such as sand and gravel from around bridge abutments or piers. Scour, caused by swiftly moving water, can scoop out scour holes, compromising the integrity of a structure.
“The bridge is in good shape, it’s not a problem with the bridge,” Maginity said. “But we will do some scour protection. We anticipate that the fill we put in is going to settle and we’ll have to come back for that. And, of course, at that point, we’ll be needing more asphalt there, so we’ll put more asphalt. This summer, you’ll probably see us back at that bridge.”