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Changing temperatures lead to massive potholes on I–95

Several potholes up to 5 feet wide and as deep as an Interstate 95 overpass is thick formed Monday afternoon, forcing lane closures through rush hour as crews patched the concrete.

Such holes are referred to as “through holes,” said a Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman, because the pavement of the road below was visible.

Potholes will sometimes form when temperatures fluctuate dramatically, which causes the pavement to freeze and thaw repeatedly.

Four or five potholes, ranging in size from 1 foot to 5 feet in diameter, appeared in the right travel lane and an acceleration lane at the exit to Falmouth/U.S. 17, said Tina Bundy of VDOT. That area is part of the bridge crossing over U.S. 17.

While most primary and secondary roads are made of asphalt, simply described, bridges are made of steel beams topped with a layer of concrete, about 8 inches thick in this case.

That means the holes were about 8 inches thick. Debris fell, but luckily did not hit anything below, said Bundy. There was no damage to U.S. 17 or motorists.

Maintenance inspectors assessed the situation, and workers from VDOT’s interstate maintenance contractor, Infrastructure Corporation of America, fixed the holes. They plan to redo the concrete when the weather improves, but put in a temporary foundation in the meantime and filled it with asphalt.

That should hold the holes despite the freezing temperatures forecast for overnight and today, Bundy said.

VDOT has been patrolling the interstate and other roads regularly, and saw that a temporary patch on this segment of I–95 wasn’t holding. It had been repaired previously on Friday afternoon.

Drivers also called VDOT to report the holes.

Bundy said there were no immediate risks to drivers and the lanes were closed as soon as the holes were discovered.

Meanwhile, Monday at about 3 p.m. and a few miles away, an auto accident closed the southbound left and middle lanes of I–95 at mile 140.

—Katie Thisdell