Andy Moreland, a geotechnical engineer with the Ohio Department of Transportation, was driving on Rt. 33 toward Nelsonville when he noticed a strange dip in the road. When he got back to work, he did some research and discovered old mines were underneath the roadway.
Engineers believe the road sag is related to voids left over from Ohio’s mining heritage. In the early 20th century miners dug out coal, creating empty spaces, and left in place coal pillars and oak beams to support the mine roof.
Over time, the supports could collapse and leave voids. If these voids are left unfilled, they could cause the road to collapse into a sinkhole.
Due to the findings, the DOT has launched a $225,000 project to locate abandoned mine voids that lurk below the stretch of road in Athens County.
Experts agree that as of right now, the roadway is safe for now and should be repaired before ever coming close to collapsing into a sinkhole.
In 1995 a sinkhole caused from old mines swallowed four cars and seriously injured a woman. It took five months and close to $3.8 million to repair.