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City approves $12M contract for East 26th St. collapse repairs

The Baltimore Board of Estimates on Wednesday approved a nearly $12 million contract for construction and repair work to replace a block of East 26th Street that collapsed amid heavy rains in Charles Village in April.

The contract covers a substantial portion, but not all, of the costs associated with the bizarre incident.

The collapse occurred after a stone retaining wall holding the block of East 26th Street between North Charles and Saint Paul streets above a cut of parallel CSX Transportation railroad tracks gave out, sending half the block and more than a half-dozen parked vehicles down into the tracks.

The contract covers work from the day of the collapse through the end of the year by contractor Concrete General, Inc., including construction of a new retaining wall and other infrastructure work.

The company was selected for the job under an emergency declaration, in lieu of a traditional bidding process, in part because it was already working under a city contract on North Charles Street and could mobilize quickly to begin stabilizing the collapse, officials said.

Residents on the street had complained for years of damage and cracks in the surface of the roadway. City and CSX officials have both skirted questions for months about the cause of the collapse and ultimate responsibility for the wall failing.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday said her administration remains in "regular conversations" with the railroad, and that they "are headed in a positive direction" on possibly splitting costs for the repairs.

"While I don't have any numbers to give you, our goal has always been … to make sure the residents were made whole and to sort out the details and the responsibility issue with CSX, and that continues to be our focus," she said.

The $11,986,560.88 contract approved Wednesday raises questions about whether the city will be able to reevaluate or scale down its initial $18.5 million estimate for how much the collapse and associated repairs would cost the city.

That cost estimate, produced for the city by engineering firm Whitman, Requardt & Associates in May, included nearly $5.4 million for a temporary retaining wall; more than $10.6 million for the permanent wall; and about $1.5 million for street reconstruction and testing, the city said at the time.

In a broad sense, that is the same work covered by the $12 million contract approved Wednesday, but not everything included in the initial estimates is included in the Concrete General contract, said Scott Weaver, chief of the Baltimore Department of Transportation's bridge engineering unit.

Weaver said he could not say whether the city's estimate will be revised downward or provide examples of work included in the initial estimates but not covered by the new contract.

"I can't say that right now," he said, citing the city's ongoing negotiations with CSX.

The initial $18.5 million estimate also included various other costs, including about $1 million for engineering design and the city's internal personnel costs related to the collapse.

Baltimore Sun reporter Yvonne Wenger contributed to this article.

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