Cross-posted at the Washington Examiner....
The spring of 2011 has been marked with sinkholes in the central Shenandoah Valley around the Staunton area, with several repairs on I-81 and two on secondary roadways.
In early May, the northbound lanes of I-81 in Rockbridge County north of Lexington near the Augusta County line were closed for 24 hours to allow repairs.
A little more than a week later, another sinkhole closed one northbound lane, again on I-81, this time in Augusta County south of Staunton. Shortly after that, sinkhole repairs closed one lane of Rt. 250 in Augusta County west of Staunton, followed by more work on I-81.
It's been that kind of year.
This week, the Virginia Department of Transportation is busy working to fill in yet another sinkhole on Va 613 (Springhill Road) in northwestern Augusta County. Springhill Road has been closed since Tuesday between Va 742 (Lebanon Church Road) and Va 732 (Roman Road) at the Middle River bridge, and a miles-long detour is in place in this rural area made up of farms and sparsely populated with houses.
Repairs were expected to be completed quickly but the damage was much more extensive than expected. Work crews found the sinkhole to be 175 feet long, 18 feet wide, and up to 25 feet deep resulting in the entire road being closed to traffic. Originally expecting to reopen Friday, it will now be closed through the weekend and may take until Tuesday to finish filling the hole and repaving the roadway. Springhill Road is a main route to the tiny village of Springhill and beyond to Rt. 42 and Mt. Solon.
Sinkholes are not unusual 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, such as the spring of 2011, or excessive dryness. Each hole is excavated and filled with stone and dirt, then repaved and monitored for stability before allowing traffic to resume travel.