MOUNT CARMEL — Tennessee Department of Transportation spokesman Mark Nagi told the Times News that a crew repairing a sinkhole in the westbound lane of Highway 11-W in Mount Carmel should be finished by the end of the day Tuesday.
“It was a minor sinkhole on the shoulder that has encroached into the right lane,” Nagi said “Crews are actively working it right now (Tuesday) with the left lane open, with expectation that both lanes will be open by the end of the day.”
However, sinkholes have been an ongoing problem in an area about halfway between Independence Avenue and Hammond Avenue for years, although usually they’re on nearby Main Street, which parallels the highway.
The last time a sinkhole appeared in that area was in July of 2017 on Main Street directly above the location of Tuesday’s sinkhole.
Before that, one occurred in 2012 in that same spot on Main Street, although the problem extends south across 11-W, where the eastbound lane guardrail has had a distinct dip for years.
It’s always been presumed that there are caves in the area that create a periodic washout.
For the past several months, Mount Carmel officials have been watching a “dip” in the pavement in the eastbound right lane of 11-W directly below the usual Main Street sinkhole location. At one point the city put down some asphalt to level it out, but on Monday afternoon the asphalt caved in, and a hole appeared.
City Manager Mike Housewright said the sinkhole has been on his radar for about six months.
“We saw a little dipped out place there on the shoulder of the emergency lane,” Housewright told the Times News Tuesday. “We kept an eye on it, and a couple of weeks ago it dropped a little bit. We contacted TDOT. Our public works director, Jason Salyer, put some hot mix — at the direction of TDOT — to it and kept an eye on it, and sure enough (Monday) afternoon saw that it had further fallen through.”
Houswright added, “When Jason applied the hot mix, it was just a big dip. Jason was out for a bike ride after work (Monday) afternoon and it caught his eye. He circled back and sure enough it had dropped through. Then he went ahead and closed off that lane and contacted TDOT.”
The city is also keeping a close on nearby Main Street, where the previous sinkholes appeared.
“When you see something like that, you can’t help but hold your breath and wait for the other shoe to drop,” Housewright said.