I-80 is the second longest interstate in the United States - a buzzing funnel of traffic and a major route for truckers. When that traffic screeches to a halt as it did Wednesday night it's a recipe for some major headaches.
The shutdown of the eastbound lanes near 24th Street in Council Bluffs had road crews scratching their heads even as the traffic began rolling again Thursday morning.
Road construction has been squeezing the lanes in the area for some time now but that squeeze crushed down into complete constriction Wednesday night when the pavement lost its grip on the earth beneath it. A portion of the interstate shoulder collapsed about 8:15 p.m.
Debbie Loper of Council Bluffs lives nearby and she told us, "It was real quiet last night. Real quiet."
Contractors were jacking pipes three-feet in diameter under the road to provide drainage, when they found a problem. District engineer Troy Jerman says the road crew found a three-to-five foot void underneath. The road would have eventually buckled.
Because the area is in the middle of 20-year interstate reconstruction plan, Bellevue's Joe Brudny wasn't sure what to expect Thursday morning.
"It's pretty confusing around here," he told us. "Like I said, I didn't know if I'd have to find a detour on the way over here or not."
Just how that void found its way under the interstate pavement is a mystery. One theory that Iowa DOT troops are considering is the possibility that all the flooding two years ago might have caused some instability. The soil is already sandy and being soaked in water for months certainly didn't help.
Crews continued their work into the afternoon on Thursday. A fresh patch of quick-drying cement got traffic flowing again.
If the digging hadn't have caught the problem engineers say the weakness would have come up sooner or later with big cracks or buckles. A vehicle-swallowing sinkhole isn't something that would have been likely.