Roads agency probes area of Route 31 sinkhole

April 03, 1994|By Bill Talbott | Bill Talbott,Sun Staff Writer

State officials are continuing their investigation of the sinkhole that led to the death of a Taneytown man early Thursday on Route 31 near Medford Road.

Dave Martin, chief of the State Highway Administration's engineering geology division, said Friday that workers were investigating "to determine that we got all of the sinkhole and there are no additional pockets nearby."

The agency will drill test holes and borings within 1,000 feet of the sinkhole to check for open pockets, Liz Kalinowski, an SHA spokeswoman, said at the scene Friday.

Robert Wayne Knight, 24, of the 400 block of Clover Court, died at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore about five hours after his 1993 Plymouth Voyager van crashed into the 18-foot-deep crater that destroyed a 35-by-40-foot section of the road.

Mr. Knight, a night-shift operator at the Westminster sewage treatment plant about a mile north of the accident site, was on a break and driving toward New Windsor about 2:20 a.m. to get something to eat when the accident occurred.

On Friday, workmen used machinery to drill 6-inch-wide holes around the area that collapsed, searching for solid rock. They found solid material 10 1/2 to 61 feet down in the five holes closest to the sinkhole.

Ms. Kalinowski said Route 31 had been checked Wednesday by a state highway employee who found no defects or indications of an impending road failure. The spokeswoman said inspectors travel the highways daily looking for road defects or problems along the shoulders.

Mr. Martin said sinkholes are caused by surface water washing away limestone under the roads. The area around the accident is known for an abundance of limestone.

The sinkhole could have been exacerbated by the wet winter and a recent 5-inch rainfall, he said.

Richard Lindsay, an SHA assistant district engineer, said Route 31 was reopened about 5:40 p.m. Thursday after nearly 1,000 tons of rock and stones were poured into the hole and topped with asphalt. A crew remained at the site all night and observed only the expected compression of the stone and asphalt.

State workers returned Friday to add another layer of asphalt. They closed the westbound lane of the highway from about 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Then they closed the entire road to drill more test holes.

Ms. Kalinowski said the test drilling will continue this week with large-scale core drilling beginning tomorrow.

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