Traveling the entire length of Willow Street through Mount Airy is not an option these days — unless one has a helicopter or similar mode of transportation.
That’s because of a large hole now occupying both lanes of the street near Loftis HVAC Co. which has forced its closure to through traffic, a situation expected to continue for at least another week.
City public works crews were working at the site Wednesday to make repairs stemming from a storm-drainage issue, officials said.
“A catch basin just caved in and that’s what started it,” Street Maintenance Supervisor Larry Combs explained.
City Public Services Director Jeff Boyles said this involved “the vertical part of the system, not the one that runs horizontal. It was made of metal and it just collapsed.”
The problem was first noted by Richard Loftis, owner of the nearby HVAC firm. “He notified us that it collapsed,” Boyles said of the section of pavement in question, located between West Elm Street and Churchill Lane along Willow Street.
Loftis said Wednesday that a “severe” rainstorm had occurred the day before the “ragged hole” at the storm drain was discovered, which likely facilitated the collapse.
After investigating, city crews found that not only did the 18-inch storm drain pipe need replacing, but horizontal water and sewer lines running underneath the street also were in bad condition, Boyles said — “which we suspected” due to their age.
“Right there at the crossing is the place where you have problems, so we’re going to replace it all while we have got the street dug out,” he said.
“It’s a pit,” Boyles added of the site’s present state due to the excavation required for the replacements.
He estimated the age of the affected infrastructure at around 100 years old, which mirrors recent concerns about the deteriorated condition of some of Mount Airy’s water and sewer lines. “I’ve focused on water and sewer, but this is another part of it,” the public services director said of the storm-drainage components of the utility system which also can be problematic.
“We’re having to keep it all in operation while we’re doing it,” Boyles said of the water and sewer systems.
Crews are trying to make the repairs as soon as possible, hopefully by the end of next week — although Boyles said he could not promise that.
“We’re at the mercy of the weather.”
In addition to the line replacements, new asphalt will have to be applied to the street before traffic can resume.
Boyles said one positive element of the situation is the existence of parallel routes to Willow Street, such as South Street and North Renfro/North Main streets, which affected motorists can use in the meantime.
The public works director appreciates the patience of those being inconvenienced, especially Loftis, whose business probably has been impacted the most by the temporary street closure.
“He’s been extremely understanding and cooperative,” Boyles said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.