Wilkes County motorists, already mindful of sinkholes due to those on the Taco Bell and adjacent property along U.S. 421 West in Wilkesboro, have seen a depression on the eastern edge of Oakwoods Road in town worsen since it first appeared this spring.
Along with cracks in the asphalt expanding at the site, just north of the Oakwoods Road traffic circle, there are two small but distinct holes without obvious bottoms. Neither of the holes, about 10 feet apart, are any wider than a basketball.
The N.C. Department of Transportation initially blocked off the area, which isn’t in a travel lane, with orange cones but replaced those with five white and orange traffic barrels. The site is between two entrances to the Run-In convenience store and one of the barrels is in one of the entrances due to a crack there.
The well-publicized sinkholes in asphalt parking areas along U.S. 421 West in Wilkesboro resulted from a large metal drainage culvert deteriorating and collapsing. The culvert was buried there decades ago as part of commercial development on private property
Brian Hamby, Wilkes district maintenance engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the state doesn’t have any culverts where the depression and holes in the asphalt appeared along the edge of Oakwoods Road.
Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland said there are no Wilkesboro water or sewer lines buried there either.
Town officials have said they are aware of problems occurring elsewhere in the immediately vicinity as a result of tree stumps buried decades ago when property was graded for development. Cavities form underground as stumps and other parts of trees rot and this can result in sinkholes. Hamby agreed that this could be the cause of the situation along the edge of Oakwoods Road.
Hamby said that the DOT currently is only able to address critical maintenance needs and has no immediate plans to make repairs along the edge of Oakwoods Road unless the situation there worsens. He said the told owners of the Run-In convenience store that they could make the repairs.