The section of Old County Road near the Rockland Golf Course may be closed longer than originally expected as state transportation officials try to figure out how to deal with a growing sinkhole that is attached to a limestone quarry.

Ground penetrating radar showed that a tunnel that extends from the west side of the quarry goes beyond a retaining wall under the road, said Mike Burns, the acting Maine Department of Transportation director for the maintenance and operations bureau.

On Feb. 19, a geophysicist was at the scene and used a ground-penetrating radar to determine if a tunnel existed between the two quarries. Tests were done again Feb. 23 to try to pinpoint how far the tunnel goes.

There appeared to be water flowing under that section of the ground and the test was being done to determine if the water was going from one quarry to another through a tunnel. The test was to help the state determine how to undertake repairs, Burns said. The hole is 65 to 70 feet deep.

The hole was first spotted at about 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 15. The road has been closed since the discovery. Concrete barriers and a metal fence have been erected around the hole.

Burns said this was the most difficult road repair project he had seen.

“This is extremely unusual,” Burns said.

He said a plan should be developed within two weeks. In terms of when the road will be reopened, he said it could be weeks but he does not expect it to be months.

Impact of closure

In the meantime, the closure of the road is forcing residents to take alternate routes.

Rockland Fire Chief Charles Jordan Jr. said that within 15 minutes of the sinkhole being created, the Rockland Fire Department had an agreement with the Rockport Fire Department to respond to calls on Old County Road north of the sinkhole. Rockland will respond too, he stressed, but the road closure will increase the response time from Rockland.

He said the longest response time had been to Dodge Mountain or the end of the Samoset Road, which is about seven minutes. Reaching the other side of Old County Road by going Route 1 into Rockport and back along Old County Road would rival that time, he said.

“Residents in that neighborhood can rest assured whether the logo on the side of the fire trucks says Rockland or Rockport they are getting great service,” Jordan said.

Rockland will respond to emergency medical calls but again the response time will increase because of the closed road.

Rockland Deputy Police Chief Wally Tower said the department continues to do routine patrols on the other side of the sinkhole and officers travel Route 1 to Old County Road.

Public works crews will also use the alternate route to handle the section. There has been no snow since the sinkhole developed.

The sinkhole has even spurred the creation of a Facebook page by people affected by the closure. The page is titled “Survivors of the Rockland Sinkhole.” As of Feb. 24, it had 138 members who were commenting back and forth on the sinkhole.