Downtown sinkhole

Benny Hempstead Excavating employees work Wednesday at the site of a sinkhole along Commercial Avenue after recent heavy rains in Coos Bay.

COOS BAY — A drain line on the corner of Third Street and Commercial Avenue in downtown Coos Bay has failed, causing a sinkhole.

Routine maintenance found the washed-out soils under the road, which caused depressions, on Monday, Sept. 9. Work to make repairs began on Wednesday, Sept. 11.

“Better we found it than a vehicle that goes inside and disappears to China,” laughed Randy Dixon, City of Coos Bay's operations administrator for public works and community development.

According to Dixon, the repairs are estimated to take two to three weeks, depending on what needs to be done to fix the submerged tank.

“This isn’t uncommon,” he said. “The city has had several deferred maintenance projects and this is one of them. Infrastructure is dated 80-plus years and anytime you have older infrastructure and no maintenance performed, this is a telltale sign of that.”

Third Street will be closed as repairs are made. Part of the sidewalk has been removed after a void was found underneath, caused by the pump sucking up silt.

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“That part of the road will remain closed because we don’t want to risk the public going over it,” Dixon said.

Dixon explained that the city was active trying to find issues like these almost seven years ago during an “intense investigation” through support from the state. But part of the reason behind failures like this is due to lack of staff and funds.

“We are hurting on resources,” he said. “The fact is we lack resources to be respondent. In the past 10 to 12 years we’ve made remarkable strides in terms of taking care of this infrastructure though. We have a long way to go, but have very little staff to keep up.”

Dixon pointed to the work on Third Street and Commercial Avenue as reactionary, emergency work that was contracted out by the city’s engineering department.

“When we have an emergency like this, we have emergency contract providers who have already gone through qualifications,” Dixon said. “That call was made (Tuesday) and here they are today.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.