I-44 In Tulsa Reopens To Traffic After Sinkhole Repair

Thursday, June 3rd 2010, 7:46 am
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The massive sinkhole that suddenly swallowed a portion of I-44 has been filled, and the highway is re-open.

The stretch of road on I-44 from Lewis to Peoria was desolate Wednesday night and Thursday morning after the sinkhole forced authorities to shut down the east and west bound lanes.

6/2/2010 Related story: Sinkhole Swallows Part Of Tulsa Interstate

The sinkhole is gone, and officials will now focus on figuring out exactly what went wrong.

It was an unprecedented situation that seemed overwhelming. A gaping hole suddenly appeared on I-44, measuring 24 feet long, 12 feet wide, and five feet deep.

"This is an unfortunate deal, we'll get to the bottom of it. It's a major thoroughfare," said Martin Stewart, ODOT spokesperson.

It ground traffic to a halt, and angered onlookers.

"Crazy man," one onlooker said.  "Kind of proves that Tulsa roads are really not in great condition, and we've got to get them fixed."

"It's going to be a real traffic nightmare in the morning going to work and coming home," another onlooker said.

As part of the I-44 widening project, The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says a contractor was boring a hole beneath the road when it gave way.

The process of filling the sinkhole, while daunting, was done quickly. Workers toiled throughout the night, filled it with concrete, and the highway was re-opened Thursday afternoon.

"It could have been a whole lot worse than what it was," said Mark Zishka, ODOT Engineer.

Head engineer Mark Zishka says he's proud of how quickly the hole was patched. Workers dealt with rain overnight, and a sinkhole that quickly filled with water.

"The biggest problem that we had here was the water table is real high," Zishka said. "So basically we were working in a swamp down there."

The incident is still under investigation, but officials say all that water may have played a role. Regardless of the cause, this is not a crisis that engineers expect to have to deal with again anytime soon.

"It's a rare situation," Zishka said. "It's just one of those things that happened."

Thanks to quick action by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, only one vehicle on I-44 drove into the sinkhole. The road re-opened just before 1 p.m. Thursday afternoon.