A water main break in the 1300 block of Charles Street affects businesses and traffic. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)
A busy section of North Charles Street in the Mid-Town Belvedere area of Baltimore will be closed for several days after a water main broke Wednesday just before evening rush hour.
The work will close a main artery out of downtown on a day when the city is anticipating heavy traffic for its annual holiday lighting of the Washington Monument. The lighting takes place at 5 p.m. Thursday, and portions of roads in the Mount Vernon area will be closed from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m.
The city Department of Transportation has urged people to use alternative modes of transportation, including buses and light rail, to get to and from the event.
The break occurred around 4:30 p.m. in the 1300 block of N. Charles St., home to several bars, restaurants and a University of Baltimore building. Water was shut off about an hour later, but Baltimore’s Department of Public Works expected the street to remain closed at least until the end of the week while crews repair the 10-inch-diameter pipe and damage to the road.
Buildings in the block will remain without water until the pipe is repaired, said public works spokesman Kurt Kocher.
DPW and Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. crews were on the scene Wednesday evening, marking underground utilities so that a repair team can begin digging out the damaged pipe.
University of Baltimore said it was closing its Merrick School of Business at 8 p.m. Wednesday because BGE had shut off gas, leaving the building at the corner of North Charles Street and West Mount Royal Avenue without heat.
University spokesman Chris Hart said the school will determine early Thursday morning whether the building will open for the day.
Some university buildings were also reporting low water pressure, he said.
Phillip Quick, a partner at Jay’s Restaurant Group, said he hopes water service will be restored within the next day or two. Jay’s Restaurant Group owns four restaurants on the block, including Jay’s Deli & Catering and Turp’s Sports Bar & Restaurant.
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“It could be detrimental if it’s longer than a day or so,” Quick said, adding that he hopes the city will provide businesses regular progress updates.
Quick said he knew something was wrong when the tap water became discolored. Shortly after, water began gushing down the street.
Once workers have exposed the pipe, they will be able to determine the severity of the break. Smaller leaks can be fixed with clamps, but larger cracks, which Kocher said he suspects is the case, require replacing the damaged section of pipe.
“The displacement of dirt and stones by the gushing of the water, it’s a good indication this isn't a leak,” Kocher said.
Damage to the road will require repaving once the pipe is fixed, he said.