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Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst


Sinkhole collapse in the area of Maryland Interstate 70 (I-70) and nearby roadways south of Frederick, Maryland has been posing a threat to the safety of the highway operation. The occurrence of sinkholes is associated with the intensive land development in the area. However, the geological conditions developed over 200 million years in the Frederick Valley control the locations of sinkholes. In this study, 138 sinkholes are recorded within an area of approximately 8 km2. Their irregular but clustered distribution leads to the development of a hard-core Strauss Model. The model predicts that new sinkholes are likely to occur within a 30 m radius of an existing sinkhole. Obviously, this risk delineation method is biased toward the areas with intensive land use. This bias can be adjusted by considering the following factors: (1) topography, (2) proximity to topographic depressions, (3) interpreted rock formation, (4) soil type, (5) geophysical anomalies, (6) proximity to geologic structures, and (7) thickness of overburden. Based on the properties of each factor, a scoring system is developed and the average relative risk score for every 30-m segment of the highway section is calculated. The areas designated by higher risk levels would have higher risk of a sinkhole collapse than the areas designated by lower risk levels.

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