Nearly six months of lane closures and heavy rush-hour congestion on Russell Street in South Baltimore have come to an end.
Crews installing new Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. lines beneath the busy north-south corridor, south of M&T Bank Stadium and near the rising Horseshoe Baltimore Casino, completed the "bulk" of their work Tuesday night, said Jim Harkness, the city's traffic chief.
The work, which began in October and was necessitated by the development of the casino site, rerouted a stretch of BGE lines from Warner Street to Russell Street, via Worchester and Haines streets.
It required one lane in each direction to be closed on Russell, squeezing traffic and causing long back-ups north into the city and south onto Route 295 during peak traffic periods.
Now, crews have completed laying the new lines beneath Russell and Worchester and Haines, concrete barriers have been removed and the lanes have reopened.
Some work will continue in the area, as crews have yet to connect the new lines under Russell to those under the two side streets, Harkness said — but it will be completed during overnight hours.
Starting next week, and likely lasting for the next six weeks, BGE crews will work overnight — likely between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. — to connect the lines, forcing nightly closures of two northbound lanes on Russell, Harkness said.
Most of the 60,000 drivers who use the route into the city each morning "may see steel plates," Harkness said, "but they won't see any disruption to their commute."
Aaron Koos, a BGE spokesman, said the company is still shooting to complete its work by June.
"We know it was an inconvenience for folks who use 295 and Russell Street, but we'll be done relatively soon," he said. "We really appreciate the patience."
On nights when the Baltimore Orioles are playing at nearby Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Harkness said the city will work with BGE to delay evening start times for the northbound lane closures, which would otherwise delay fans trying to leave parking lots via Warner and Worchester streets.
Harkness said city officials are "fairly pleased" with how the last six months of lane closures on Russell have gone, despite the fact that there was "definitely an increase in congestion during the construction, even with people diverting to alternate routes."
Work stuck pretty closely to schedule despite harsh winter weather and multiple snow storms, and city residents and fans of the Baltimore Ravens have handled the traffic with patience, Harkness said.
"Everyone adjusted pretty well," he said.
Koos said the work has also benefited from open lines of communication between officials.
"There are a lot of moving parts and we're coordinating well with the city and the casino and the developers and other utilities," Koos said. "It's going as well as something of this magnitude can go."