Work to fill in sinkholes beneath the pavement at North Howard and West Lexington streets in Baltimore is expected to be finished Tuesday, transportation officials said.
Several blocks of both streets were closed Sunday and Light Rail service was suspended Sunday after Maryland Transit Administration crews discovered depressions in the pavement while performing track work along the light rail’s Howard Street corridor.
Contractors were brought in Monday afternoon to fill the sinkholes with material known as flowable fill, said Frank Murphy, senior adviser in the city transportation department. They were expected to finish applying the substance within about 24 hours, he said.
“It’s like concrete but not as hard, so you can dig through it if you have to,” Murphy said. “It flows in and fills up nooks and crannies.”
This year's meteorological fall, which ended Friday, was Baltimore's wettest on record by about half an inch of rain. There was more than 20 inches of precipitation from September through November at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, broke a record from 2006.
Officials have not determined what caused the sinkhole, but ruled out any broken infrastructure that may have leaked and washed away dirt beneath the street. Asked if record precipitation this year might have been a factor, Murphy said heavy rain “often” is to blame for sinkholes.
There has been more than 65 inches of precipitation at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport so far this year, 3 inches more than the region’s previous record-wettest year and more than 20 inches above normal.
Sinkholes occur when water — whether groundwater, stormwater or leaking pipes — dissolves rock or soil underground, creating holes or caverns that sometimes lead to dramatic collapse of the land above. In this case, the MTA crews detected the sinkhole before any such collapse could occur.
Several blocks of North Howard and West Lexington streets in Baltimore were closed — and light rail service was interrupted — following a Maryland Transit Administration maintenance crew’s discovery of a void under the street early Saturday, the city Department of Transportation announced Sunday.