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Harbor Tunnel floods briefly; unrelated work to continue next week

Water flooded into the Harbor Tunnel Friday morning, halting southbound traffic for about a half-hour, after a crew inadvertently opened a fire line valve, the Maryland Transportation Authority said.

Photos on social media showed water gushing from the wall of the tunnel, the part of I-895 that goes under the Patapsco River. Cars can be seen splashing through water, which although seemingly not very deep was enough to trigger tunnel fears among some.

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“Stuff of nightmares!!!!!” was a typical response on Twitter.

A crew was testing equipment within the tunnel when it opened the valve of a line used by firefighters to access water in case of an emergency, the transportation authority said in a statement. It was immediately closed, and pumps were activated to clear the water.

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“We’re taking steps to ensure this doesn’t happen again during the testing," the statement said. "There is no safety issue nor malfunction.”

Southbound traffic was held up at the Harbor Tunnel between 9:55 a.m. and 10:29 a.m. Friday as a result of the flooding. No motorists got stuck in the tunnel, and there weren’t any crashes, said Maryland Transportation Authority spokesman John Sales.

At the time of the flooding, the southbound tube had one lane going in each direction. The northbound tube was closed for ongoing work on walls and to replace tiles and pumps, said Christopher Imms, a spokesman for the transportation authority.

The work is part of a 3-year project to replace the 60-year-old I-895 bridge and the Holabird Avenue exit ramp north of the tunnel, and should be completed in the summer of 2021, the authority said.

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