Engineer says no sinkhole

By Joe Baker

Senior Editor

A startling announcement came Tuesday from the Dixon district office of the Illinois Department of Transportation. John Wegmeyer, project engineer for the Springfield-Harrison Ave. extension, said there is no sinkhole in the roadway.

“There really is no sinkhole,” Wegmeyer said. “The pavement just settled on one side. It’s just material that consolidates with the overfill. The whole area has settled, just a bit more in that spot, but there’s nothing I would characterize as a sinkhole.”

Last week, city and county officials were speaking of the problem in reference to a sinkhole there. Mayor Doug Scott, however, in an appearance on cable television, said the difficulty was just “frost in the ground.”

Wegmeyer said the course of action to solve the problem appears to be determined. “I think we’ve reached agreement on what repairs are to be made,” he said. And although there is no sinkhole, “the case is that the county and the contractor must reach agreement on what is to be done if additional settlement occurs. We don’t think there will be any, though,” Wegmeyer said.

Asked what is to be done to solve the problem, he said the existing concrete would be ripped out and replaced with stronger pavement.

What will all this cost? “There have been a couple of different numbers tossed around,” Wegmeyer said. “One was $60,000, but it may be as low as $20,000. The county is readying a short list of repairs for the contractor (Rockford Blacktop). By week’s end, they should be back to the county with cost estimates,” he said.

When is work likely to resume on the project? “We hope everything is resolved by May 1st, after everything is dried out. Our intent is to be all done by early summer. The contractor has enough days left on the contract that he could spend the whole summer out there, but he’s way ahead of schedule,” said Wegmeyer.

Last fall, the IDOT said the solution would be in hand in two weeks, and work would begin this spring. Construction of the bypass route began in August of 2000.

IDOT is paying for 80 percent of the cost of the $15 million project with the remainder financed by Winnebago County taxpayers. The county is to maintain the road once it is completed and opened to traffic.

Earlier this month, Wegmeyer said the 40-foot-long sinkhole would be filled in and new pavement put over it. Several large truckloads of gravel have failed to halt the visible sinking in one section of the roadbed.

Tom Ditzler, who had 10 acres of his land taken by eminent domain for the road, said, “I go down there quite a bit, and the gravel they ’ve been dumping in there just keeps getting lower and lower. I don’t know, unless somebody is taking gravel away.

“All I know is when I walk down there, I almost fell on my nose in the center. Maybe the fill they put in there is thawing. They said something about ice. From my place here, the road seems to be sloping to the east.

“I’m not an engineer, and I can’t see that well. But my friend Kenny Bard said, when they poured it, the road was completely level. Now when it rains, the water runs off the road and down the bank on the east.”

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