As Public Works crews prepared to tackle the problem of a 10-foot-deep sinkhole in downtown Baltimore, the city announced yesterday that Cathedral Street between Monument and Centre streets - near the site of the depression - will be closed to traffic for several weeks.
"The best-case scenario would be a few weeks," said Kurt L. Kocher, a spokesman for the city Department of Public Works. "It could be less than a month, or it could be a month. It just depends on the magnitude of the problem."
Although the sinkhole was only 10 feet deep, crews must dig down about 40 feet, to the top of a massive sewer "tunnel" before they can assess damage, Kocher said.
Officials believe the sinkhole, reported Friday, was caused by a break in the tunnel's roof. As dirt and sand flowed into the hole, asphalt at the street level gave away.
Water and sewer services have not been affected, Kocher said, and restaurants and boutiques in Baltimore's historic Mount Vernon district remain open. But the road closure may pose a problem for some, he added.
During repair work, Cathedral Street traffic will be detoured west on Madison Street, south on Eutaw Street, and east on Centre Street.
Motorists traveling south on Maryland Avenue, which turns into Cathedral Street, may take Mount Royal Avenue east to St. Paul Street or Guilford Avenue.
Message signs - including one on the Jones Falls Expressway - will direct motorists away from the sinkhole, and traffic officers will be on duty during peak commuting hours, said Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the city's transportation department in a written statement yesterday.
The cracked sewer tunnel, like much of the city's sewer system, was built in the early 1900s. City officials plan to spend roughly $900 million over the next decade to update the system as part of a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency.