Engineers Working to Save Rare Corvettes

By Kevin Wilcox
Civil Engineering Magazine


A team of engineers is working diligently to secure a large sinkhole at the National Corvette Museum and raise the final three cars from the bottom.

March 18, 2014—Early in the morning of February 12, emergency personnel in Bowling Green, Kentucky, responded to a security alarm at the National Corvette Museum. A burglar alarm had triggered on one of the doors at the facility’s Skydome, where exceptionally rare Chevrolet Corvettes are displayed beneath a dramatic steel frustum. Museum staff arriving at the scene discovered that eight cars were indeed missing from the display. None of them had exited through the door.

A massive karst formation had opened an oblong sinkhole 45 ft wide, 60 ft long, and 27 ft deep beneath floor of the facility, near the bright red steel central spire in the frustum. Security video footage captured the initial collapse and the first two cars to fall into the hole before the video feed to the security system was cut.

A team of engineers and construction experts quickly assembled on-site to assess the situation and determine the immediate steps to stabilize the structure. Local firm Scott, Murphy & Daniel, LLC, was among those called and is serving as the project manager and coordinator of the team. Geotechnical consultant Hayward Baker, Inc., headquartered in Hanover, Maryland, was also brought in.

“The immediate concerns, certainly from my point of view, were: what status is it in? What’s the likelihood of it growing? What other areas might it impact?” says Michael Marasa, P.E., M.ASCE, a senior engineer for Hayward Baker. “The first challenge was trying to get some understanding of the magnitude and expanse of the feature.”

Also on the team from the early hours was Dennis Smith, P.E., L.S., M.ASCE, a principal of DDS ENGINEERING, PLLC, in Bowling Green. Smith previously served on the museum’s board of directors and his firm is providing surveying, civil, and geotechnical engineering on the Motorsports Park that the museum is developing nearby.

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