More city streets closed for sinkhole Roads a mile away shut to divert water lines

November 16, 1997|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The effects of Baltimore's week-old sinkhole are spreading.

Efforts to repair the gaping, muddy crater at Franklin Street and Park Avenue are forcing city workers to close streets as far as a mile away.

"We had to close the streets so the work crews could divert water lines from the hole itself," said Kurt L. Kocher, spokesman for the city Department of Public Works. "To alleviate the water in the hole, we have to divert the water that far away.

"It could take a day, or a couple of days," he said. "It depends on how soon we can find out exactly how big the pipe break is."

City officials have ordered the closure of Baltimore Street from Schroeder to Calhoun streets; Fayette Street from Carey to Schroeder streets; Carey Street from Lombard to Fayette streets; and Carrollton Avenue from Hollins to Fayette streets until further notice.

Officials are also asking that commuters avoid Cathedral and Mulberry streets, which have lane closures.

For more than a week, traffic has been rerouted around the Franklin Street corridor as city work crews deal with the aftermath of the street collapse and subsequent gas explosion Nov 8. Repairs are expected to inconvenience commuters for at least two more weeks, when city officials say the crater will be fixed.

"We have crews working around the clock," Kocher said. "We're asking everyone to stay away from the area. If people get out of the natural habit of using the streets near the site, it will make it easier for work crews and emergency vehicles to move through the area."

City officials said that a section of sewer line as long as 15 feet might have been destroyed when the street caved in, taking with it several conduits and manholes. The street collapse set off a five-hour natural gas-fed fire that forced the evacuation of nearby residences, including the Metropolitan YWCA, a building that has been temporarily condemned by city housing officials and remains closed.

It could be six weeks before the shelter can operate in the YWCA building at Franklin Street and Park Avenue, city officials said yesterday.

A vacant structure at the northwest corner of Park Avenue and Saratoga Street, which formerly housed the Cove Restaurant, will be demolished, according to city Public Works director George G. Balog.

Officials said the sinkhole poses no public health danger -- alternate sewer lines and routes have been opened.

Before the cave-in, Park Avenue carried several underground public utilities. Electrical conduits and fiber-optic cables ran under the west side of the street, while the east side held a freshwater line and a smaller electrical conduit. The sanitary sewer runs in the middle of the street. At 33 feet down, it is the deepest of the utilities.

According to public works officials, attempts to fix the street have cost more than $460,000 and the cost is climbing by the hour.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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