10/23/06 — Sinkhole repairs will take more time

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Sinkhole repairs will take more time

By Lee Williams
Published in News on October 23, 2006 1:52 PM

Drivers will have to endure traffic delays on U.S. 70 Bypass West for roughly three more weeks as road crews work to repair a large sinkhole left in the wake of Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Some motorists say the project, which is expected to cost taxpayers about $500,000, has dragged on too long, but North Carolina Department of Transportation officials disagree.

Bobby Lewis, DOT division maintenance engineer in Wilson, said Tuesday the project is on schedule, although he added the timetable was revised.

DOT officials initially thought the project would take eight weeks to complete. But, after surveying the damage a second time, DOT officials added two more weeks to the timetable to give crews extra time to prepare the site and accomplish the project.

"The first time we looked at it was within 24 hours after the storm, and we still didn't see the extent of the damage," Lewis said.

Ernesto brought heavy rains to the area where the sinkhole formed, which made it difficult to fully assess the damage at first glance.

DOT officials returned several days later when the water receded. After work crews removed some of the damaged material, they made another assessment, Lewis said.

"The dam from Cogdell's Pond had failed, and as it failed, it blocked the drainage way into the culvert," Lewis said. "We had to remove that before we could really make that assessment."

Lewis said DOT crews from Nash, Johnston and Wayne counties are working on the project. He said they are only replacing what was damaged.

"We're not taking out the whole culvert," Lewis said. "We're taking out bad and replacing it with good."

Lewis said repairing the damaged area was no easy task.

"We're trying to retrofit it back to an existing structure," Lewis said.

Meanwhile, traffic delays continue. The area around the site, which has been reduced to one lane, created traffic nightmares for thousands of drivers as they made their way to and from the Wings Over Wayne Air Show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro on Oct. 15.

A few traffic accidents also have been reported in the area, said Steve Davis, DOT bridge maintenance supervisor.

"There have been a few fender benders because people won't slow down," Davis said. "They wait until the last minute to merge."

Davis asked drivers to be patient as they complete the project.

"This is a high priority," Davis said. "We've been doing everything feasibly possible to get the repairs done as soon as possible. In two weeks, you'll see the area change dramatically."

Officials say the dam where the sinkhole formed was damaged before Ernesto hit.

"I think it got washed out during Hurricane Floyd and the spillway continued to deteriorate over time," Davis said.

Carolyn Compton, who owns the dam and Codgell's Pond, investigated ways to fix the problem before Ernesto hit Aug. 31.

"She had permission to enter DOT grounds to do some work," Davis said. "They had an encroachment. She was still consulting with an engineering firm on what actions to take."

Davis said Ms. Compton would not be held responsible for the damage.

"She's been very cooperative, and she's not putting the dam back," Davis said.