BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Workers raced to secure an underground collapse site in downtown Baltimore ahead of heavy rains Thursday evening —delaying repairs to the area from the incident that has snarled traffic and distrusted public transportation for days.
A 12-inch pipes now cross the intersection of Howard and Pratt streets — temporarily replacing a failed 36-inch stormwater drain.
Crews also installed large pumps in the middle of what is normally one of downtown Baltimore’s busiest intersections — and placed a plastic tarp over a large sinkhole near the Light Rail tracks.
The Department of Public Works said — without those precautions — rain and flooding would mean trouble. DPW says once the severe weather threat subsided, they will enlarge the hole in the ground to help them make repairs.
A gray concrete-like mixture known as “flowable fill” was pumped below ground to stabilize the area where part of a light rail platform collapsed.
The problems started on Monday after a water main broke. Then, a worker became trapped trying to turn off electricity to the area. A train also derailed in the Howard Street tunnel. CSX is again running trains in that tunnel — but the problems have not let up — after water began leaking —authorities had to fix yet another water main break on Howard Street.
Maryland Department of Transportation officials said they are unsure about the timeline for repairs of a large water main break and sinkhole downtown and have temporarily suspended services between Camden Yards and North Avenue stops.
“The safety of our riders is our first priority,” said MDOT MTA Chief Operations Officer Sean Adgerson. “We look forward to the Baltimore City Department of Public Works promptly completing these repairs, so we can restore full service quickly and minimize the impact on our riders.”
A free bus bridge is available to Light RailLink customers.
Officials believe they can reopen Pratt Street by Friday to vehicle traffic. But it could take weeks for the MTA Light Rail to reopen. At this time, there’s no exact timeline.
DPW Director Rudy Chow said they are working on restoring the area first and making it safe before they proceed to make actual repairs.
Congestion in the area is expected to get worse when the Orioles play on Friday. Camden Yards is just a block away.
City Emergency Operations Director David McMillan says alerts will go out on social media to fans attending the game to make sure they know how to detour around the disruption.
“Safety in the area is our top priority,” McMillan said.
The underlying problem is aging infrastructure. Baltimore City typically replaces 15 miles of aging pipes every year, but that’s not enough to keep up with the needs. They also proactively work to find which water mains are likely to break before disaster happens.
Officials won’t say how much the latest major infrastructure failure is costing taxpayers but the tab is likely running into the millions of dollars.