Frustration Builds For Drivers Negotiating U.S. 70 Sinkhole

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GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Repairs to U.S. Highway 70 near Goldsboro will force traffic to remain restricted to one lane each way until at least Thanksgiving, officials said Tuesday.

U.S. 70 has been a traffic bottleneck since the beginning of September, when a sinkhole opened under the eastbound lanes during Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Heavy rains caused the dam on a nearby farm pond to fail, and the rush of water from the pond overwhelmed a culvert under the highway, authorities said.

State Department of Transportation officials initially said the damage could be repaired within three weeks, but they decided to replace the entire culvert after getting a better look at the damage, which necessitated ripping up all of U.S. 70.

"We're really hoping and crossing our fingers that we can be through by the upcoming holidays -- Thanksgiving," said Robert Lewis, a DOT divisional maintenance engineer. "This is a priority project, and if we could have it done tomorrow, we'd love for it to be done tomorrow. But, yes, this is a high-priority project."

The delay in reopening the highway is a source of increasing frustration for area drivers.

"It's been slow traffic -- jammed, jammed tight. It's taken up a lot of time," said Alexander Height, who drives a garbage truck through the construction zone several times a week.

"It's lousy. It's just hard to get through there," driver Joan Williams said. "It should have been done by now. It's taken them too long."

The project is expected to cost about $500,000.

The owner of the nearby farm pond had been talking with DOT officials about replacing the dam, which was first damaged in 1999. But officials said no agreement had been reached before Ernesto hit, so the landowner won't be liable for any of the U.S. 70 repair costs.


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