AYER -- There are potholes, and then there are just plain big holes.
On the East Main Street Bridge in Ayer, reports were received early Friday morning of a large hole that opened up in the westbound lane of the heavily traveled bridge.
Among those to come across the hole was Ayer DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel. "When I was driving into work this morning, I noticed a big pothole there. I called the highway foreman and we went out to look at it."
And the hole was sizable -- there was nothing but air through the steel Rebar grate work under the pavement layer. A pile of crumbled concrete could be seen on the ground below aside train tracks which are heavily used by both freight and commuter rail service.
Wetzel estimated the hole was 20 inches in diameter and that the hole was a foot deep. "It was not very safe," deadpanned Wetzel. "There are other holes in that area but not that size. It went all the way through so you could see the railroad tracks."
"We immediately went out and plated it," said Wetzel. Ayer Highway crews brought a 8-foot square steel plate to the scene with a front end loader to close the hole temporarily. A call was also made to MassDOT, which came out that morning.
The Ayer Police Department used social media and its Nixle.com text alert system to advise motorists that the span would be closed to through traffic overnight Friday into Saturday. However, police advised the public that emergency crews would still be able to access the bridge overnight. The East Main Street bridge is the sole span over the tracks in the event a train was passing through the downtown.
At daybreak on Saturday morning, the hole was closed and sealed.
"Next week, we've got to follow up with the (MassDOT) district engineer to see if we can get a bridge inspection done on that and get a plan in place for improvements," said Wetzel. "When I went underneath and looked at it, it appeared to need some work. It probably doesn't need to be replaced but it seems to need repair."
"I'm concerned because it is the main road in and out of town," said Wetzel. "We need to make sure it's going to be safe and that when they do the repairs it's not going to disrupt traffic for Ayer."