Stormwater flowing into the sinkhole on Howard Street in Baltimore during the heavy rain Wednesday night overwhelmed the underground storm drain system and breached the Howard Street Tunnel again, complicating the city’s ongoing efforts to fix the broken water main and other infrastructure, officials said.
Engineers installed a fourth underground water pump at Howard and Pratt streets to dispel the flooding, and crews have poured stone and other fill to stabilize the area as they prepare to fix the 36-inch storm drain, the sewer mains and other conduits, Department of Public Works spokesman Jeffrey Raymond said.
But the breach of the CSX freight train tunnel “will require further action,” according to the Department of Public Works.
“We continue to monitor the location to make sure we’re getting water removed from the site," said Jeffrey Raymond, a spokesman for the Baltimore Department of Public Works, in an email. "Be mindful, though, that groundwater will always infiltrate a location near the harbor. So it’s an ongoing process.”
Freight trains traffic had resumed by Thursday, but at reduced speeds, through the tunnel following the flooding, according to CSX. The railroad had to clear silt from the tunnel on Thursday, Raymond said.
“CSX is in close coordination with city and state partners as they work to restore public assets adjacent to the railroad tunnel,” CSX spokeswoman Cindy Schild said in an emailed statement.
The water main break has closed Pratt Street between Paca Street and Hopkins Place and Howard Street between Lombard and Conway streets, disrupting downtown traffic, especially entering the city from Interstate 395 (Exit 53).
Light rail service has been suspended between North Avenue and Camden Yards due to the sinkhole, which swallowed a handicapped entrance ramp and stretched to the edge of the tracks. The Maryland Transit Administration is running a free shuttle between the stations for passengers during the service interruption.
Crews began fortifying the sinkhole area Tuesday night and expected to be able to reopen some street lanes on Pratt and Howard streets by the end of next week, Raymond told The Sun earlier this week.
The flooding from Wednesday’s storm is not expected to lengthen that timeline, Raymond said.
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“We’ve not changed the timeline that was discussed earlier this week," Raymond said in an email Thursday afternoon. “There are a lot of smart people involved in this project who are figuring out ways to keep making progress, even when we get new challenges thrown at us.”