Lost city intersection returns today Sinkhole repairs permit reopening of Park Avenue

November 29, 1997|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

Motorists and residents who have been long inconvenienced by the gaping sinkhole that opened under a busy downtown Baltimore intersection three weeks ago can begin using the area today.

Department of Public Works officials plan to reopen the intersection of Park Avenue and Franklin Street in Mount Vernon this morning at 6.

"Everything should be done," said Kurt L. Kocher, spokesman for the department.

Franklin Street was repaved and opened to traffic Thursday. The Park Avenue section was repaved yesterday.

Kocher said the city spent nearly $2 million to repair the 30-foot-deep sinkhole that tore apart cable, steam, water, gas and electric lines, and left a hole in a huge sewer pipe Nov. 8. The sinkhole also led to a gas explosion that shot flames up to 50 feet into the air for five hours.

The city repaired a sewer line 30 feet under the pavement and cleaned out dirt that had been forced into it. Originally, Public Works Director George G. Balog projected that it would take two weeks to repair, but problems extended that.

The cause of the sinkhole is being investigated, Public Works officials said. Officials from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and Trigen-Baltimore Energy Corp., whose pipelines were damaged, have refused to speak publicly about the cause except to say that their companies were not to blame.

Public Works, BGE and Trigen reached an agreement two weeks PTC ago not to talk publicly about the cause, Balog said.

Nearby residents and business owners are relieved that the intersection is no longer cordoned off.

The city has rerouted traffic and closed nearby streets since the cave-in. Parts of Baltimore and Fayette streets and Carrollton Avenue were closed, and commuters were blocked from some lanes on Cathedral and Mulberry streets.

Yesterday, city employees focused on Mulberry Street west of Park Avenue, repairing pipes used to divert water after the cave-in and explosion. Officials said one lane of Mulberry would be open to traffic this morning and the other lane by Monday.

The curb lanes of streets within four blocks of the sinkhole will be blocked at times over the next week, officials said, as BGE installs permanent cables to replace temporary ones used during the repairs.

Merchants relieved

Despite the continuing street repairs, merchants said yesterday that they welcome the reopening of the Franklin and Park intersection.

"Parking was impossible, and it wasn't good for business," said Harry Singleton, who works at the Perfect Images Barbershop, in the 200 block of W. Mulberry. "I'm looking for things to come back to normal, and I'm looking forward to even an increased volume of business."

Annoying detour

For weeks, motorists had to detour around the busy intersection, tying up traffic elsewhere downtown.

"We don't expect there to be any problems with services," said Angela Walters, public information representative for BGE.

The cave-in prompted the evacuation of about 265 residents and left several downtown buildings temporarily without electricity, gas, water, phone or cable service. They included the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, the Catholic Charities soup kitchen Our Daily Bread and the Mount Vernon Hotel.

The YWCA homeless shelter abutting the sinkhole was condemned temporarily, and the families there were relocated.

Yesterday, the shelter remained closed. A security guard outside said the building would not open for several more weeks, but YWCA officials could not be reached for comment.

Pub Date: 11/29/97

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