Streets remain closed as Downtown Pittsburgh water main repairs continue

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Repairs to the 12-inch water main that burst at a busy Downtown Pittsburgh intersection should be completed by 11 p.m. today but sections of Fort Pitt Boulevard will remain closed through tomorrow afternoon.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin said that Fort Pitt Boulevard will remain closed between Smithfield and Wood streets through tomorrow afternoon. Wood Street will reopen at 1st Avenue tomorrow morning for inbound traffic and Mon Wharf parking.

Crews excavated the main and found a rupture that was 8 to 10 feet long.

Workers have had to do some of the digging by hand because a 20-inch gas main is located in the same trench, she said.

The break, discovered at about 4:30 a.m. at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Wood Street, sent water pouring into the "bathtub" area of the Parkway East. Crews battling the coldest weather of the season were able to shut off the affected main by about 6:30 a.m., Ms. Rubin said.

Barricades stopped Downtown traffic from accessing the area. An odor of natural gas also was present near the break, and Equitable Gas crews were on site investigating, spokesman Scott Waitlevertch said.

Duquesne Light crews also were working to check for equipment damage from the flooding. No customers lost power, spokesman Joe Vallarian said.

At Point Park University, where most students were still on holiday break, four or five students were evacuated from the Conestoga residence hall on Wood Street. Electricity and heat to the building were turned off as a precaution after water flooded the basement, spokeswoman Terra McBride said. The students were moved to the lobby of the Boulevard Apartments on the Boulevard of the Allies.

A small amount of water also entered the university's West Penn Building but quickly drained out, she said.

PennDOT sent salt trucks through the inbound bathtub area and had two of three lanes open for rush hour but Parkway East traffic was backed up for miles. The third lane reopened around 9 a.m.

The Mon Wharf was closed to parking today because the entrance was blocked at the scene of the water main break. Fort Pitt Boulevard and Wood Street also were closed in the area. Several Port Authority bus routes were sent on a brief detour using Smithfield Street and the Boulevard of the Allies to reach Wood.

Fort Pitt Boulevard was closed from Smithfield to Market streets. Wood Street was closed from the Boulevard of the Allies to Fort Pitt Boulevard. A large section of pavement was forced up by the water at the intersection.

Crews were working to pump water from utility vaults and buildings. At L.D. Astorino & Associates on Fort Pitt Boulevard, several inches of water poured into a portion of the basement. Workers set up a pump to remove it and operations at the architecture firm were not affected, corporate records manager Gary Link said.

"It's really not that big a deal," Mr. Link said.

No customers were without water service, Ms. Rubin said.

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Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438. First Published January 3, 2013 10:30 AM


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