ITD fills in sinkhole in Idaho 78 near Marsing

kterhune@idahostatesman.comMay 7, 2013 

— The gophers couldn't get one over on the Idaho Transportation Department.

ITD workers excavated an area as wide as a lane in Idaho Highway 78 Monday night to fill in a sinkhole created by gopher tunnels, spokesman Reed Hollinshead said. The sinkhole was just east of Givens Hot Springs, near Marsing.

The tunnels weaken the material under the road, Hollinshead said, and can lead to collapse.

Monday's sinkhole was originally about two feet wide, he said. But when the workers began digging, they found evidence of more tunnels that threatened the integrity of the highway. The final excavation was two feet deep and nearly five feet wide, he said.

ITD found the sinkhole before it caused any wrecks, Hollinshead said.

“Some of our guys were just out patrolling the road and saw it,” he said. “They were able to fix it before it became a problem for a car or a person.”

Road maintenance workers were able to temporarily fix the cave-in by filling the hole with gravel and patching the top.

“What they put in was just an emergency fix so the road is usable,” Hollinshead said.

After ITD determines if there are phone or power lines in the area that could pose a threat to digging workers, the road will receive a permanent fix. Crews will need to put in and compact road base material before pouring new asphalt to smooth out the lane, Hollinshead said.

Last summer, a Melba woman was killed when her car hit a sinkhole as she traveled to work in the dark. Sonia Lopez, 32, drove directly into the 15-foot-wide sinkhole that covered a large part of Butte Road.

The Butte Road sinkhole was also attributed to gopher damage. Water running through the tunnels weakened the road at a much quicker rate, Hollinshead said.

ITD urges drivers to use caution and be on the lookout for soft spots, indents in the road, and potholes that can be an indication of an imminent cave-in.

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