Thursday, May 05, 2011

Sinkhole backs up traffic for 15 miles on I-81 near Lexington

Bumper-to-bumper traffic stood still Thursday afternoon on Rt. 11.

After a sinkhole was discovered Wednesday afternoon on the northbound side of I-81 north of Lexington in Rockbridge County, both lanes were shut down and traffic was routed onto Rt. 11 North.

Two lanes of traffic inching along that secondary road for miles made huge traffic jams and driver headaches along with overheated vehicles as VDOT worked to reopen the interstate.

Traveling with a friend to Lexington today on business, we were caught up in the traffic delay on Rt. 11 while as we drove back to Staunton, creeping along on a trip that took almost 45 minutes to drive 20 miles.

By 2:00 Thursday afternoon, one lane of I-81 North was reportedly reopened, and the other lane was expected to be opened sometime Thursday evening.

Sinkholes are not unusual on I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley and, amazingly, are generally found before they cause damage to vehicles. The Valley is full of limestone underground caves and sinkholes often occur when there has been excessive rain. As was the case with this one, they are excavated and filled with stone and dirt, then repaved and monitored for stability.

The detour is located between Exit 195 in Lexington and Exit 213 at Greenville in Augusta County.

Cross-posted at Bearing Drift

Photo by Lynn R. Mitchell
5 May 2011

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