A portion of Cathedral Street will remain closed indefinitely until the city repairs a broken storm drain that was leaking water into the Walters Art Museum.

In early August, staff at the Walters noticed water was coming through the electrical panel in the basement and was concerned that the condition might cause a power outage. The city's Department of Public Works discovered the storm drain was leaking into a conduit that holds the electrical wires at the museum. "We were deeply concerned, as was the Walters," said Kurt Kocher, a spokesman for the department.

He said the leak was not near any works of art at the museum.

A contractor began work in late August to replace nearly 300 feet of the storm drain, but on Sept. 12 workers noticed cracks in the pavement across Cathedral Street. When they opened up the street, Kocher said, "they found this enormous hole" that was 14 feet by 10 feet wide and five feet deep. The storm drain had collapsed, he said, and city officials closed down Cathedral street to traffic between Center and Monument streets.

The project was originally estimated to cost about $100,000 and to take only a week, but because of the need for more extensive repairs, the work is estimated to cost $380,000, he said. The city will replace the old terra cotta pipe with a pipe made of PVC. Kocher said the repair is an example of the need for a more consistent source of revenue to replace the city's aging storm drains.

A number of other storm drains have also had leaks in the past year. In this case, he said, the failure was serious "because it was leaking into one of the city's treasures."

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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