14th Street sinkhole repairs could stretch into weekend

The sinkhole opened up near 14th and F streets NW. Photo: Mike Conneen

DC Water officials say that repairs to fill a massive sinkhole that opened in downtown Washington on Tuesday could stretch into the weekend.

Repairs to the sinkhole, which undermined the roadway at 14th and F streets NW Tuesday afternoon, will involve the excavation of 30 feet of sewer line that needs to be fixed, spokesman John Lisle says.

The "fairly complex" repair to the 54-inch sewer line, which was laid in 1897, could take several days to fully complete.

So far there are no definite answers as to what caused the sinkhole, but DDOT records show the city put a metal plate on the spot in March 2011.

“It makes me angry because it should have been taken care of,” says Cheryl Hinnant, who works downtown. “I mean, you walk across it sometimes and you trip.”

“They actually put some blacktop over the top so the plates wouldn’t move,” says Barbara Topel, who also works downtown.

The representative for DC Water, who is in charge of the project, says sinkholes are caused by soil erosion.

Contractors put in place work cages Wednesday to protect workers from soil collapse as they first repair the brick sewer pipe 15 feet down.

“Immediate job is just to investigate, identify what defects there are in the pipe and later on we’ll do a root cause analysis of what happened,” says Charles Kiely of DDOT.

As this activity continues, 14th Street NW between Pennsylvania Avenue NW and New York Avenue NW and F Street NW between 13th and 15th Streets NW will stay closed.

The sidewalks and crosswalks along 14th Street NW and F Street NW remain open.

Commuters that are traveling northbound on 14th Street NW are advised to take Constitution Avenue to avoid traffic backups approaching Pennsylvania Avenue. The 14th Street Bridge may experience delays as well due to overflow. You can use the Case Bridge and 12th Street to access Constitution as well.

Meanwhile, workers are doing all they can to help ease the traffic congestion.

"We made it available for people driving to this area to get [to their] garages. Local deliverers, we're making sure the local deliveries can take place, working with merchants to make sure we get the people in and out of their businesses," says Terry Ballamy, the director of DDOT.