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Eyes on the Roads: Repair efforts are moving slowly on Gainesville sinkhole

POSTED: August 13, 2014 1:35 a.m.

Efforts to repair a Gainesville sinkhole are going slow because the work space “is extremely tight.”

“Equipment and materials are big, so that makes working slower and more methodical,” said Teri Pope, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s district spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, workers are “still excavating broken pipes.”

The sinkhole, which workers have determined is 22 feet deep, is next to Barry’s Better Menswear in the parking lot of the Lakeshore Place shopping center in the northeast corner of Ga. 53 Connector/John Morrow Parkway and Pearl Nix Parkway.

The busy intersection is surrounded by retail establishments, including Lakeshore Mall.

The initial opening was about the size of a basketball.

Since digging at the site, workers have determined the sinkhole was caused by pipe failure, Pope said.

“Water wasn’t channelized because the drainage system broke, so the water eroded the area over time,” she said.

“Workers just have to determine which pipe or part of the drainage system failed.”

The other part of the project is figuring out the size of the new drainage structures, as they are custom-made, Pope said.

Workers discovered the sinkhole Aug. 4 after it was reported by the property owner.

Until repairs are made, shoppers can only reach stores in the center from John Morrow Parkway.

The DOT had hoped to finish the repairs by Aug. 20, but that could be delayed because of the slower progress.

Pope said she wouldn’t “have an updated time frame until after we get materials” to the site.

The DOT expects repairs to be completed Oct. 13 in Northeast Georgia’s other sinkhole project at Lake Hartwell.

“We had hoped to finish the sinkhole repair by next week, but the contractor was not able to make up the 10-week delay in starting work due to rerouting utilities,” District Engineer Bayne Smith said.

“We apologize for the delay but had no choice. Fire protection and water accessibility had to be maintained for the safety of the community.”

Weather permitting, crews will begin this week removing the pipe that caused the sinkhole, which opened up on Ga. 51 on May 6.

More than 500 dump truck loads, or about 10,000 tons of dirt, have been removed from the work zone.

The $1 million repair includes creating a dry work area displacing Lake Hartwell water, giving the crew a place to work.

Once the new pipe is installed, crews can begin to build up dirt to the grade of Ga. 51. The final task is paving and striping the road.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:



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