The Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek in Wilkesboro was closed to traffic about 1:30 p.m. April 15 “out of an abundance of caution” after an inspection earlier in the day revealed that repairs are needed, stated an N.C. Department of Transportation press release.
It remains closed while officials with the DOT bridge section in Raleigh conduct analysis to determine what is needed to maintain safety, said Andrew Glasco, transportation supervisor II in bridge maintenance for the DOT’s Wilkes and Caldwell districts.
Glasco said Tuesday that he is still waiting to learn plans for the bridge from officials in Raleigh. The bridge’s weight limit was already reduced to 19 tons for single vehicles and 25 tons for tractor-trailers some time back.
Glasco said an inspection conducted every two years found that some of the longitudinal and transverse steel cables holding the bridge deck’s 12 precast slabs of concrete tightly together had failed. Longitudinal cables run vertically and transverse cables run horizontally.
Exposed steel hardware placed on ends of three transverse cables became deteriorated to the point where they no longer maintained cable tension. A bridge inspector was able to pull the end of one of the cables out from the side of the bridge.
Two longitudinal cables, broken due to deterioration, dangle from the underside of the bridge. A slab of concrete about the size of a shoebox is attached to the end of one. Surfaces of the concrete slabs are deteriorated elsewhere, in some cases leaving portions of longitudinal cables exposed.
Glasco said salt placed on the road surface to melt winter ice is a key cause of the deterioration.
On the north side of the bridge, Oakwoods Road is now closed where it intersects with Main Street, Wilkesboro. On the south side of the bridge, signs tell motorists the bridge is closed ahead but Oakwoods Road isn’t closed until immediately before the bridge due to intersecting roads.
The official detour, marked with detours signs, calls for taking Old U.S. 421 east from Wilkesboro to N.C. 115, then to U.S. 421 Bypass near C.C. Wright Elementary School.
The two-lane, three-span Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek was constructed in 1969, and underwent major repairs with placement of a couple of steel I-beams lengthwise under the bridge several years ago.
In the DOT’s current Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), right of way acquisition for a new Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek is scheduled to start in June 2026 and construction in June 2028.
DOT plans about 10 years ago called for a new four-lane Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek to already have been constructed at a site west (upstream) of the existing bridge to help reduce the severity of a curve.
In the 2012 TIP, construction of a new Oakwoods Road bridge over Cub Creek was scheduled to start in fiscal 2014-15. This was also part of the proposed widening of two-lane Oakwoods Road.
Oakwoods Road is considered a major gateway to Wilkesboro and to a lesser extent North Wilkesboro. The road, including the bridge, was re-paved earlier this month.