BALTIMORE — Crews are busy temporarily filling the hole in the collapsed roadway along Howard Street so that a more permanent solution can be sought after predicted soaking rains pass through Baltimore Thursday, the Department of Public Works said at a press briefing Thursday morning.
Crews are using flowable fill, a mixture that quickly settles to fill the hole in which it’s poured but is easier to remove later than concrete, to patch portions of Howard and Pratt Streets that gave way, said Jeffrey Raymond, a DPW spokesman. A temporary bypass using pumps and 12-inch pipes has been set up to direct stormwater around the current site as a 36-inch storm main buried under the road is broken. Once the weather has passed, workers will remove the flowable fill, go into the hole, and fix the storm main.
Since the collapsed roadway and leaks affect the Howard Street Tunnel used by CSX, the freight company has been working with DPW and partner agencies during these emergency repairs. As CSX personnel were conducting tests of rail traffic, water was found dripping into the tunnel, Raymond said. A leak detection crew found the source of the leak as a water main roughly 100 feet north of where Baltimore Street intersects Howard Street. Crews began work on repairing that leak Thursday, in the hopes of fixing it before it becomes a full water main failure. Raymond said that leak is not thought to be linked to the current water and road collapse issues a few blocks south.
“This is tricky work. It’s underground, so there’s surprises when you get underground,” Raymond said. “We need to be prepared to adjust and adapt quickly so we can get those fixes in place.”
Raymond also said water service was restored overnight to the buildings of 300 W. Pratt Street, meaning all area customers have water.
The full cost of these emergency repairs has not been tabulated, but Raymond said those numbers would be made available when they are assessed.
With the Pratt Street/Convention Center Light Rail stop inaccessible as it sits in the middle of the construction site and has seen portions of its elevated platform and nearby sidewalk collapse into the ground, and with the inability to single-track trains on Howard Street, Light Rail service remains suspended between the North Avenue Station and the Camden Station. Riders can take the train to either station but will have to board a bus bridge to reach the destinations south of North Avenue and north of Camden Station.
“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.”
Baltimore’s aging infrastructure continues to be thrust into the public’s eye as water main breaks have occurred throughout the city, closing roads and causing water service issues, most notably when a pipe broke and a flawed diversion plan left residents of the Poe Homes without water for more than a week.
Raymond said DPW routinely inspects all 1,500 miles of water mains in the city, proactively replacing 15 miles of that infrastructure each year. DPW prioritizes those repairs based on factors like the condition of the pipes and the vulnerability of the communities served.
“With an unlimited supply of money, we could make more fixes, but money is limited, so we have to budget our resources appropriately,” Raymond said of the decision making process. “We can’t be everywhere at once as much as we might want to be.”
According to Councilman Eric T. Costello, DPW has completed the installation of the storm water pipe bypass system that was set up overnight at South Howard Street and West Pratt Street. MTA routes & road closures will remains in effect until stormwater pipes can be reconnected by DPW.
The following intersections / streets are still closed to traffic:
W Pratt St & S Howard St
S Howard Street & Camden St
I-395 & S Howard St (SB)
W Pratt St & S Paca St
CSX is operating fully, Costello says, but it is operating at decreased speeds.