Sinkhole repairs clog traffic, disrupt businesses
BALTIMORE — Traffic in downtown Baltimore remained cut off at a crucial intersection for a fourth day, and while some progress has been made overnight, other problems arose.
The heavy rain forecast through Thursday evening threw another wrench into the mess. It meant crews had to set up a workaround to prevent flooding, and it'll keep crews off the job site for some time in the name of safety.
"We sent in a crew to look, activated our detection experts, they pinpointed the leak on Howard Street about 100 feet north of Baltimore Street," Baltimore City DPW spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said.
Repairs to the new underground issue, which officials said was discovered by CSX crews, are going slower than normal because of another big underground issue.
The crucial crossing of Howard and Pratt streets was still swallowed up by a sinkhole that formed Monday. Then, on Wednesday, another sinkhole swallowed part of a Light Rail platform next to the Baltimore Convention Center and near Camden Yards.
Crews were performing the heavy equipment version of open-heart surgery and made progress overnight.
"We've put in bypass pumps for the storm drain system. This is important because we are expecting rain this afternoon into the evening," Raymond said.
The idea is to prevent a flood, divert the runoff wait until the rain clears and then get to work on the fix.
"The plan is to then go back into the void that we've been filling and repair the broken 36-inch storm line," Raymond said.
The worker who was critically injured Monday in a partial collapse underground is improving, according to the city Department of Transportation. He remains in a hospital in an intensive care unit, but he's now in stable condition.
As of 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Councilman Eric Costello said contractors completed the installation of the storm water pipe bypass system that was set up overnight at S. Howard Street and West Pratt Street. MTA routes and road closures will remains in effect until stormwater pipes can be reconnected. Pedestrian traffic has been moved farther north away from the area where DPW is pumping stormwater into, Costello said.
DPW (Contractors) has completed some filling of collapsed voids with flowable fill and the area has been covered. DPW has to wait for next 24-36 hours for the flowable fill to set.
The following intersections / streets are still closed to traffic:
W. Pratt Street and S. Howard Street
S. Howard Street and Camden Street
I-395 and southbound S. Howard Street
W. Pratt Street and S. Paca Street
MTA Light-Rail is still shutdown from North Avenue to Camden Street. MTA has rerouted all bus traffic in the area.
CSX is operating fully, but at decreased speeds.
Some businesses struggling amid road closures, repairs
While no scientific data was available yet, some downtown businesses are taking a hit because of road closures and light pedestrian traffic.
"Let's say 100%. And what can we do about it? God knows," Assadi said. "It seems like we've been isolated from the rest of the city, and we have to deal with that, basically."
Other businesses reported they are doing OK because there is a convention in town, but the theater and concert crowds Assadi depends on haven't materialized. Many people are using the skywalk to avoid walking around all the repairs, and that is cutting into pedestrian traffic that would otherwise frequent the businesses.
"It's hard. All this makes it hard to get back and forth, period," said Capri Brown, who works downtown.
But many tourists like not having to wait in line.
"Yeah, everything has been pretty convenient. People are friendly and nice. It has been easy to get food," said Quon Reese, a tourist.
Orioles advise fans to plan for road closures
The Orioles are in town this weekend, and the team is advising fans to plan for street closures.
Out-of-state fans said they found the road closures make it hard to get to the ballpark.
"I thought when I come by interstate, come on down here and make a turn into the hotel, nah. (I) had to go all the way around to get where I wanted to get at," said Tom Byrum, from Virginia.
But overall, Orioles fans don't seem phased by the road closures and repair work.
"(It's an) unfortunate circumstance, but it is not stopping me from going to a game," said Philip Block, an Orioles fan.
"I was going to try to drive down, but I might take the Metro and get off at the Lexington Market," said Michael Harris, an Orioles fan.
The team released a statement Thursday evening, advising fans to allow more time to get to and out of Oriole Park at Camden Yards for the weekend's games.
Pratt Street is closed between Paca Street and Hopkins Place. Southbound Howard Street is closedbetween Lombard and Conway streets. Northbound I-395 is closed north of Conway Street, and all traffic must turn right onto Conway Street.
Fans coming to the ballpark from the north and traveling through the city will be able to access the ballpark via Conway Street from the east or Lee Street (via Russell Street) from the west.
Fans entering Baltimore via I-395 north (Exit 53) can still access the ballpark parking lots and Lee Street via the Russell Street exit on the right. Fans who do not exit right and remain on I-395 north will be diverted onto Conway Street due to the Howard Street closure.
Light Rail service is running as scheduled from the south to Camden Yards. Light Rail service from the north is interrupted between North Avenue and Camden Yards, and shuttle bus service is in place between North Avenue and Camden Yards to accommodate passengers.
City officials hope to have more streets reopen in the coming days, but couldn't say when. Crews are under much pressure with Artscape coming up next week and an upcoming Billy Joel concert at Camden Yards.