Void threatens Vidalia road

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

VIDALIA — A large cavern is forming in Vidalia, but it’s not the kind young boys would like to explore. It’s the kind that could destroy vehicles and injure people.

A portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive near its intersection with U.S. 84 in Vidalia was closed Wednesday morning when Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development engineers discovered what was essentially a shallow cavern under the roadway, DOTD Area Engineer for LaSalle, Catahoula and Concordia Parishes Chris Roussell said.

“We have closed the road because there is a very substantial void underneath the pavement,” he said.

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The void, which Roussell said was 8.5-feet deep at the point which engineers were able to survey it, was discovered after truckers began noticing a dip in the road. The road was essentially holding itself up with no foundation beneath.

The void is at least 60-feet long and 24-feet wide, Roussell said.

It was apparently formed when an abandoned sewer line failed, and Vidalia Utility Manager Mark Morace said the break had probably been undermining the roadway for a couple of months before its discovery.

“With the river being high this year, the higher hydrolic pressure it creates it pushes that onto the groundwater, so if (the water) can find a little crack in a sewer line or a storm sewer, it will,” Morace said.

Even though it was still on the city sewer maps, Morace said the line in question has not been in use for some time, and service to customers would not be interrupted.

Morace said the utility department would be filling in the line.

Street Department Manager Lee Staggs said city crews would be working with the DOTD to correct the problem, and Police Chief Ronnie G. “Tapper” Hendricks stressed the importance of staying off the undermined roadway.

“A few years ago (on U.S. 84) the four-lane collapsed, and you could have probably put a car in it,” he said.

The repairs could take two weeks, but Roussell said because it has to be coordinated with a contractor the project might take longer, but hopefully no more than a month.

“We are probably going to have to remove the paving and just fill it in,” he said.

The DOTD is handling the matter because Martin Luther King Jr. Drive is also Louisiana 131.

Hendricks said normal neighborhood traffic could detour down South Oak Street, turning left on John Dale Drive to get to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Heavy truck traffic should drive down U.S. 84 until it intersects with Louisiana 3180, which connects to Louisiana 131 south of Vidalia.