Skip to main content
Donate Now

New sinkholes will keep Butler Pike closed two more years

Email share
New sinkholes discovered in Plymouth Meeting
Harri Leigh
PBS39 News Reports



Sinkholes mean one of Montgomery County's busiest stretches of road will remain closed another two years

WHITEMARSH TOWSHIP, Pa. (WLVT) - A stretch of Butler Pike in Montgomery County closed last August because of a large sinkhole. After months of repairs, the county road was supposed to re-open in April, but much to the frustration of local residents and businesses, Whitemarsh Township officials now say that re-opening will be delayed at least a year and a half.

“Public safety is our paramount concern, but we are working as hard as we can to get that road opened to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic as quickly as we can,” said John Corcoran, director of communication for Montgomery County.

The sinkhole forced authorities to close off Butler Pike between Flourtown Rd. and Germantown Pike. It also affects the Norfolk Southern Railway Bridge that passes over the road, as well as natural gas, electric and telecommunication utilities that run underground through the area.

The area is prone to sinkholes because of a large amount of limestone underground.

Crews immediately worked to stabilize the sinkhole with flowable fill, a type of concrete. The county had planned to have the road reopened in April, but further analysis revealed at least four other sinkholes were developing nearby. Montgomery County engineers determined the closed section of Butler Pike was unsafe to reopen “anytime in the immediate future.” In fact, permanently repairing the road will be a two-year process, they said, including 18 months of planning and six months of construction. Residents may bemoan the nuisance of driving around the closure, but officials said safety outweighs convenience.

“Safety has to win out. We don’t balance it,” Corcoran said. “Safety comes first.”

Montgomery County government officials attended a Whitemarsh Township Board of Supervisors meeting May 9 to provide an update and answer residents’ questions.

“What about the railroad bridge? I’m very concerned about a train derailment,” Whitemarsh Township resident Tom Doll asked during the public comment section of the meeting.

“We’re going to have 60 townhomes coming in this area,” said Frank Scarpello, a resident of Flourtown. “Have you guys looked to see if there are sinkholes there?”

Officials answered that the railroad bridge had been determined to be stable, and that potential land for housing development in the area had not yet been surveyed for the township.

Esther Rineer of Lafayette Hill argued environmental concerns have been overlooked for the sake of development, and advocated delaying all new development in the area.

“Whitemarsh is named Whitemarsh because it’s on marshland,” Rineer said. “I think everybody that lives in Whitemarsh should know that the ground is not the most stable thing. A lot of people get water in their basements.”

The road beneath the bridge is expected to remain completely closed to both vehicles and pedestrians through at least early 2021.