Repair work on a natural gas line shut down a stretch of Light Street near the Inner Harbor yesterday afternoon, snarling traffic during the busy Friday rush hour and threatening to disrupt downtown travel through the weekend.
Authorities said Light Street between Conway Street and Key Highway could remain closed until tomorrow as crews with Baltimore Gas and Electric worked to repair a pipe connected to a major gas main near the Maryland Science Center.
But a BGE spokeswoman said last night that officials hoped to complete the repairs overnight and reopen the street early today.
Officials closed part of the main downtown artery about 1 p.m. The area was filled with city fire trucks, hazardous material vehicles, police command trucks and utility company crews, but authorities said that no buildings were evacuated and that no one was injured.
The closure caused headaches for commuters, as traffic backed up into downtown and slowed on the southbound Jones Fall Expressway near the downtown exits.
It also raised some concerns for area businesses and a small number of BGE's residential customers.
At the Expresso, Etc. cafe in the Harbor Court Hotel at 550 S. Light St., clerk Rosalind Pringle worried that the incident could keep away customers.
"I feel kind of leery," Pringle said. "It will probably slow business."
Others took the news in stride.
"It's a problem, but they're obviously getting right on it," said John Evans, 77, a resident at Christ Church Harbor, a nearby apartment complex. "Some people worry. I don't."
Amanda Rice, a front desk agent at Harbor Court, said guests were managing to wind their way through the downtown detour.
"To be honest, we're redirecting people and giving them the new directions, and they're getting here," Rice said. "It hasn't been as much of a problem as we feared."
Authorities had not determined last night what caused damage to a 6-inch-long pipe that connects to a 36-inch-wide gas main.
They said the problem, which was not a break in the pipe, could have been caused by construction in the area.
The gas main was not damaged in the incident, said Linda Foy, a BGE spokeswoman. No residential or commercial customers lost service because of the damage, although BGE stopped service to about 12 homes and for a brief period to the Maryland Science Center to make repairs.
Sun staff writer Gail Gibson contributed to this report.