Sinkholes at the intersection of North Howard and West Lexington streets in Baltimore have closed blocks of both streets and interrupted light rail service, officials said Sunday.
North Howard Street is closed between Fayette and Saratoga streets, and West Lexington Street is closed between Eutaw Street and Park Avenue, the city Department of Transportation announced.
The Maryland Transit Administration has suspended light rail service between the North Avenue and Convention Center stations, and is running buses to the affected stations.
It’s unclear what caused the sinkholes — the latest example of the city’s failing infrastructure — but they did not appear to have affected CSX Transportation’s Howard Street Tunnel below, which carries freight trains to and from the port of Baltimore, according to CSX spokeswoman Laura Phelps. A section of East 26th Street above a CSX rail line through Charles Village partially buckled and sank amid heavy rain last week, a near-repeat of a dramatic collapse of a nearby block in 2014.
The Howard Street sinkholes could not be seen from the street, aside from a dip in the pavement. They were discovered by MTA crews doing track work along the light rail’s Howard Street corridor Saturday, officials said.
“They were concerned that there was a dip there in the street and wanted to see what was going on underneath it,” said Jeffrey Raymond, a Department of Public Works spokesman.
He did not know how large a void existed below the street; the city was working Sunday to clear sediment from a storm drain to lower a camera under the street and get a better look, Raymond said.
While the cause of the sinkhole is not yet known, heavy rainfall like the record 65.7 inches that has pounded the city this year “can definitely be a factor in contributing to a sinkhole,” said Cody Ledbetter, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
The temporary bus for light rail riders will run between the North Avenue, Mount Royal/MICA, Cultural Center, Mount Vernon, Lexington Market, Baltimore Arena and Convention Center stops. MTA staff will be posted at each station to help let riders know about the service interruption, the agency said.
“The safety of our riders is our first priority,” MTA CEO Kevin Quinn said in a statement. “We look forward to Baltimore City DOT promptly completing these repairs so we can restore full service quickly and minimize the impact on our riders.”