Work begins

Crews begin work on the 20-inch-wide water below Light Street that burst Monday. They were to remove that pipe as well as a parallel 10-inch pipe. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr. / July 18, 2012)

City crews focused on connecting temporary water lines and clearing damaged areas of Light Street in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday in the beginning stages of a large repair operation following Monday's water main break.

"One of the main concerns today was stabilization and safety, so we had to make sure that the gas lines and electric lines were protected," said Kurt Kocher, a city public works spokesman.

Crews excavated stretches of the roadway in preparation for the removal of two water mains — the 20-inch-wide pipe dating to 1889 that burst Monday and a parallel 10-inch pipe dating to 1914 — but limited the exposure of the pipes while other pressing needs like water restoration were addressed, Kocher said.

"We're not going to rip up all the street all at once until the mains are all ready to go," he said.

While the Freshii restaurant reopened Wednesday, other businesses remained without water service in the two-block stretch of Light Street north of Lombard Street where the mains are set to be replaced, said J. Kirby Fowler, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

"There's been some positive movement," Fowler said. "We hope that the water will be on as soon as possible."

Kocher said crews have been working hard to install the temporary lines, but requirements that the water be tested for 24 hours before it is deemed safe to drink have slowed the process. Kocher said he believed water service would be restored Thursday.

Kocher also said it was "still too early in the game" to estimate what the cost of the repairs will be. Replacing the two water mains alone will cost about $600,000, and that doesn't include road repair, cleanup or resurfacing costs, he said.

The total price will be in the millions of dollars, Kocher said, adding that there is still a lot of work to be done.

krector@baltsun.com

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