Reporting Mike Hellgren
BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Emergency construction on the Jones Falls Expressway is about to expand dramatically. All northbound lanes will be closed overnight starting Thursday as crews work to stabilize the ground under the pavement. Then they’ll start fixing broken pipes that could cause a major sinkhole.
Mike Hellgren has a closer look at what’s wrong and how bad the headaches will be for drivers.
The situation will soon get worse for drivers when northbound lanes close starting Thursday from 10 p.m. until 4 a.m. Southbound will be down to one lane and could also close in the future, which is frustrating some drivers.
“It’s gonna be a lot of headaches though if they close it down,” said Robert Busard, JFX driver.
“Especially for people who’ve got to work at night. What about emergency vehicles? It’s going to cause a real big headache, especially on taxpayer dollars,” said Kazuyko Anderson, JFX driver.
The multi-million dollar emergency work project started after a routine inspection showed clogged and cracked pipes underground.
Deputy transportation director Frank Murphy says the real digging has yet to start.
He says crews are still evaluating damage to the pipes and will be injecting grout to shore up dirt below the JFX. Murphy says this is not an elevated portion, but a section built on fill.
“We know enough that there are voids and soft soil, so that’s why we’re doing this. We always knew that this was going to be part of the work,” he said.
Right now the northbound closures are scheduled through Monday but could last longer, and southbound lanes may eventually close.
“As the month wears on, we’re going to continue to do nightly closures in one direction or another to get this work all accomplished,” Murphy said.
The northbound detour will take you from the 28th Street exit over to Sisson Street and then onto 29th and back to the JFX.
“The city’s got to do what it’s got to do to repair its infrastructure, so I’m all for it. Let’s get it done, “ said Tim Elliott, JFX driver.
In addition to the full closure of the expressway on the northbound side, a temporary double left lane closure will be implemented along the southbound JFX on Thursday evening.
“If it’s an emergency and it’s causing any safety risk to the public, then that’s something that needs to be done as expeditiously as possible,” said Adrienne Barnes, Baltimore City Department of Transportation. “This is very important. The JFX is a very important stretch of roadway for Baltimore City. It brings you in and out of the city. So we want to get the work done and we want to get it done correctly and as quickly as we possibly can.”
“The actual major excavation hasn’t begun yet. That’s going to start very soon. Late this week or over the weekend,” Murphy said.
Murphy says drivers should keep their eyes open for closures throughout the month of May.
“As the month wears on, we’re going to continue to do nightly closures in one direction or another to get this work all accomplished,” he said. “These closures will be a regular feature for the foreseeable future, for at least a number of weeks.”
Once all of the most recent closures are lifted, a single left lane closure will remain in effect in each direction along the JFX until construction is complete. Repair work is expected to take approximately six to eight weeks. But the transportation department says the duration of construction is uncertain at this time, and the lane closures could extend.
Officials say they will take Orioles games and the Preakness into account and adjust the schedule of closures as necessary.
Transportation officials are urging drivers to use alternate routes, including Park Heights Avenue, Falls Road and Loch Raven Boulevard, among others, but it could still be a mess.
For alternative routes, click here.