Sinkhole Sinks Drivers Patience

Sinkhole Sinks Drivers Patience
By: Arnold Wyrick

Southern Illinois drivers heading along Highway 51 north of De Soto Thursday afternoon, ran right into a sinkhole for the second time in as many years. But this time the Illinois Department of Transportation caught the problem, before it caused a major accident.

"We had been monitoring the area and this morning we had a 6' deep hole right next to the pavement. We noticed that the profile of the roadway had sunk 9", over a 40' span, and that the pavement had cracked on the south end of the area. So we decided to close the highway, "says Greg Smothers IDOT's Operations Engineer.

Smothers says it's an old problem under ground that's causing the road to sink. "There shallow mine shafts running right under the road and as it settles, it's causing the pavement to settle," Smothers said.

But the sudden closing of the highway just after 9:00 am caused many drivers to be confused about which way to go, to get around the repair work being done. "I need to get to Elkville, and there are no direction signs to help me get around to get there. And I need to work there today,"says Dawn Taylor of Herrin.

She wasn't alone in her confusion on trying to figure another way to get to where drivers needed to go. "Do you know how to get around to Du Quoin," asked Carolyn Reid. "I know they have to fix the road. But it's an inconvenience, because I don't know any other way to get to Du Quoin, " Reid said as she began looking for a place to turn around.

IDOT did get the repair work done and the road reopened. But Smothers says there's no way to guarantee that the highway won't continue to sink. "You never know where they're going to occur. The mine shafts are everywhere in that area. So they could show up in various depths and locations," said Smothers.