Thousands are expected downtown this weekend, what with the Piano Man playing Camden Yards, a Showtime-televised boxing bout at RoFo Arena and a couple other events that are sure to draw crowds.
With the expected influx of visitors, the city plans to reopen parts of two roads that have stayed closed to traffic for a little over two weeks thanks to a whole mess of sinkhole-related repairs.
Two lanes of Pratt Street where the road intersects with Howard Street, as well as two northbound lanes of Howard Street in the same area, will reopen to traffic for the weekend starting at noon Friday, DOT announced today. Drivers entering the city from northbound I-395 will be able to access both Conway Street and northbound Howard Street, which has been shut down to traffic, to get downtown.
Southbound Howard Street will still be closed while crews work, DOT’s senior advisor Frank Murphy said today at an impromptu press conference.
Cars have been blocked from the area for a little over two weeks now after a sinkhole emerged and swallowed up part of the Convention Center light rail stop. The hole announced itself as crews were removing portions of the sidewalk and light rail tracks due to the void that had been detected below.
The sinkhole grew from a water main break in the Howard Street Tunnel two days earlier. The break and resulting flood caused a partial train derailment, a muddy pool of water outside M&T Bank Stadium and, in the aftermath, the collapse of an underground utility vault where crews were working on electrical repairs.
DOT, Baltimore’s Department of Public Works, the city’s fire and police departments and the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management have since been working with the Maryland Transit Administration and various companies and contractors on repairs.
The location has made the work particularly complicated, since the sinkhole, utilities and other infrastructure sit between the CSX tracks below and the light rail tracks above. But despite some setbacks due to recent heavy rains, they appear to have made significant progress.
Still, more work remains. To that end, DOT said it’ll close off all of Howard Street between Lombard and Conway Streets once again starting after midnight on Sunday so repairs can proceed. The two reopened lanes of Pratt Street will remain open to traffic moving forward, but drivers can expect ongoing congestion in the central business district south of Fayette Street and west of Charles Street, a release said.
The plan is to have Howard and Pratt streets reopened by Aug. 1, or next weekend, Murphy said this afternoon. He couched that it’s not a certainty: “We’ll have to see how the progress goes during next week to find out.”
Officials are doing all this given the expected throngs of drivers downtown this weekend, between the Billy Joel concert tomorrow at 8 p.m., and, all on Saturday, the Ravens’ open practice at M&T Bank Stadium at 6 p.m., R&B/soul singer Kem’s show at MECU Pavilion at 8 p.m. and the Davis-Nunez fight at Royal Farms Arena at 9 p.m.
The MTA Light Rail is currently shut down for a 14-stop stretch, from Camden Yards all the way up to Lutherville, thanks to the sinkhole repairs and unrelated work on eroded portions of track near the Cold Spring Lane station.
The train is still accessible from the south up to Camden Yards, and the MTA is offering bus bridges between stops while they remain out of service.