FAIRHOPE – Work to repair a sinkhole that left a crater 85-feet long and up to 13 feet deep on Bancroft Street should be complete in about two weeks, Fairhope officials said.
The sinkhole appeared Thursday morning, May 26 between Oak Avenue and Bayou Drive. The Fairhope City Council held an emergency meeting later that day to approve repairs estimated at $250,000.
Richard Johnson, public works director, said leaking iron drainage pipes under Bancroft washed soil away until the street collapsed.
“This corrugated metal pipe is probably in excess of 50 to 60 years old,” Johnson told council members. “The inverts were rusted out and apparently, it's probably been sucking some material at that location for a while and the void underneath the asphalt finally got large enough where that asphalt caved in this morning, and by the time that the rains ended, the resulting sinkhole was full lane width and about 85 feet in longitudinal depth going north to south.”
Johnson said city crews inspected the damage Thursday. He said the drainage pipes along the entire section of street between Oak Avenue and Bayou Drive should be replaced.
“It appears that as we get back up to the intersection of Oak, at that junction box, we have concrete pipe that's heading farther south that the full run, which is about 320 linear feet of corrugated metal pipe running from basically Oak all the way to the gully bottom there as you're heading to Bayou needs to be replaced,” Johnson said. “It is gone and the whole 85-foot length of the sinkhole, that pipe is completely gone. There's nothing left there. It caved in and just came apart.”
He said another section of drainage pipe on Bancroft also failed several years ago and a school bus fell into the hole.
Johnson said locating erosion that can create sinkholes under streets is difficult.
“It is always tough when you have drains under the driving surface because those sinkholes can be particularly challenging and dangerous,” Johnson said. “How do you prevent it from happening? A lot of times, you're not going to know about it until there's a failure that's catastrophic.”
The council voted to declare and emergency and approve spending a total of $250,000 to make the repairs. That total includes $50,000 for engineering and pipe and $200,000 for a contractor to do the work.
Johnson said the repairs could begin Tuesday, May 31, after the Memorial Day holiday and were scheduled to be completed in 15 days.
Council President Jimmy Conyers said that while a repair of the immediate damage could be cheaper, replacing the line could prevent other problems in the future.
“My personal opinion is we would want to go ahead and address the entire street,” Conyers said. “I don't want to be back here next spring with the rain event and addressing the portion that we didn't address.”