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I-93 reopened after sinkhole snarls traffic; Irate motorist at site arrested for DWI

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 19. 2015 9:30PM

Thomas Richard Conner of Chichester is taken into custody after State Police said he drove past traffic cones, flags and signs onto closed portions of I-93 and berated several construction workers Wednesday. (COURTESY)

CONCORD — State transportation officials said all lanes on Interstate 93 in Concord are now open for travel after a massive, 20-foot-deep sinkhole that opened up shortly after noon Wednesday snarled traffic for hours.

"TRAFFIC CLEARED: Concord, I-93 NB south of Exit 14, all lanes open for travel," read a Tweet on the New Hampshire Department of Transportation's  I-93 Twitter feed posted at 10:52 p.m.: 

The sinkhole halted northbound traffic, caused lengthy detours and even resulted in a drunken-driving arrest when a man veered past cones and flags and began berating road crews.

The pavement collapse involved the shoulder and passing lane of I-93 northbound just south of Exit 14, a major Concord exit that motorists use to access state government and Loudon Road.

Officials quickly closed the northbound lanes of the highway between exits 13 and 14. One southbound lane was closed briefly, said William Boynton, Department of Transportation spokesman. Boynton said he was confident all lanes would be open in time for the morning commute.

The car-sized sinkhole developed on a raised portion of a highway that leads to a bridge spanning Loudon Road.

“There’s on old brick storm drain at that location,” Boynton said. DOT engineers were working with the city of Concord, and workers filled the storm drain with concrete early Wednesday evening, Boynton said.

Sinkholes often develop when water leaks or overflows from a culvert, sewage pipe or storm drain.

The water washes away fill and other materials beneath the roadway, leaving only asphalt with no support underneath.

According to National Weather Service records, nearly 2.4 inches of rain fell in Concord between 7 and 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Boynton said thousands of culverts run beneath roads and state highways, but they are more unusual beneath highly engineered interstates.

Wednesday afternoon's pavement collapse involved the shoulder and passing lane of I-93 north just south of Exit 14 in Concord, resulting in lengthy detours and delays for motorists. (COURTESY)

The Concord storm drain ran from the Concord Market Basket parking lot, Boynton said.

“Whether this was a long-standing, slow-developing issue or one that developed quickly, I don’t know if we’ll know the answer to that,” Boynton said.

He said the DOT initially received a report of a dip in the road and cars bottoming out.

A 12-by-14 sinkhole quickly developed.

At 12:15 p.m., New Hampshire State Police announced the highway was closed.

By 6:30 p.m., workers were about ready to fill the sinkhole with gravel, Boynton said. At 9 p.m., crews were paving over the filled-in hole, and were expected to let the first layer cool before applying a second layer of pavement. Boynton said DOT officials hoped to have the road re-opened by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire State Police said they arrested Chichester resident Thomas Richard Conner, 55, after he drove past traffic cones, flags and highway signs onto the closed portions of the highway and berated several construction workers.

He was charged with drunken driving after a breath test showed his blood-alcohol level to be more than three times the legal limit.

The Bow-based R.S. Audley Inc., which is working on I-93 two exits south of Exit 14, was brought in to assist with the repairs, Boynton said.

Boynton said no one was hurt and no vehicles damaged by the sinkhole.

The highway closure backed up traffic to the Hooksett tolls, he said. Vehicles were detoured to Airport Road and Loudon Road.

He said social media and electronic message boards likely cut down on the backups.

“It’s always busy,” he said of the highway. “It’s very difficult to get out there and even close one lane because it will quickly back up traffic.”

Public Safety Merrimack Transportation

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