By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Traffic in Newkirk was noticeably slower Thursday morning, July 7 as a sinkhole opened near South Street and Main, forcing the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to install temporary traffic lights as workers addressed the issue.
The sinkhole was located in the westbound lane of South Street, just west of Main Street. Traffic was diverted through the eastbound lane. ODOT personnel discovered the sinkhole through routine inspections.
“ODOT does a drive-through on a regular basis, checking the roads, and they noticed the sinkhole,” City Manager Ryan Smykil said. “We got there on-site with them, but we couldn’t see how far back it went. It spread itself out but doesn’t seem to go down very deep.”
ODOT quickly installed the temporary traffic signals, reducing the intersection to one lane in front of the New Point convenience store and North Central Veterinary Service.
“We contacted Evans & Associates for an emergency repair; we wanted to make sure the road didn’t give way,” Smykil said.
Upon cutting into the street, workers were in for a surprise, as they discovered a lost utility access hole under the roadway, which was still operating and connected to the sewer line for New Point utility services. They inadvertently damaged the access hole, which extended repairs.
“When they uncovered the area where the sinkhole was, they discovered the manhole from when they covered it,” Smykil said, adding that the street had been resurfaced about 10 years ago.
Part of the project is rehabilitating the utility hole, including raising it to street level, and repairing the brickwork damaged in the excavation.
“The manhole is like a well, and the bricks line the well going down to the sewer line,” Smykil said. “They are lifting the manhole to be level with the surface of the road.”
Work is expected to be finished by the end of this week, and it is unclear the cause of the sinkhole.
“We initially thought it was a leak of some kind, but that proved not to be the case,” Smykil said.