CSX Transportation and Baltimore City brought in heavy equipment to remove the crumpled sidewalk and the bulging retaining wall that now sags dangerously above its railway tracks on 26th Street in North Baltimore.
Having watched the sidewalk pull part from the street and push downward into the wall, CSX and city officials opted tonight to dismantle portions of the sidewalk and wall before they fall into the railway.
All service on the CSX freight line, which connects Baltimore with Philadelphia and the port of New York, was suspended at noon today as the extent of the damage became evident.
City officials closed off the 200 block of East 26th Street and are re-routing traffic on Calvert Street between 25th and 27th streets.
Residents near the wall were notified that they may have to evacuate, but so far no such order has been given.
The removal of the sinking sidewalk is expected to relieve pressure on the high concrete wall that stretches along the south side of 26th Street between North Calvert Street and Guilford Avenue.
Not the First Collapse
Some of the wall is over 100 years old. A section of it collapsed about 25 years ago and was repaired.
A wall of similar vintage, two blocks to the west, fell into the railway on April 30, 2014, dragging down street lights, trees, parked vehicles and hundreds of tons of mud.
After that incident, which temporarily displaced residents on the unit block of 26th street, CSX and city officials vowed to inspect the entire rail right-of-way between Sisson Street in Remington and Greenmount Avenue in Harwood.
Kirsch Jones, a Guilford Avenue resident, said today that he has pushed CSX for years to institute preventive maintenance on the retaining walls along 26th Street.
“I don’t know if they’ve done it, but if they have, it has already failed,” he said.
The cause of today’s damage has not been determined, according to officials. Heavy rains over the last few days may have contributed to the shifting of the ground below the street, forcing the sidewalk to move against the retaining wall.
A consultant at the scene said that a leaking water line may have saturated the subsurface, leading to the collapse. She said her company was using CCTV to inspect water pipes in the area.
The precise reason why the nearby wall collapsed in 2014 was never officially determined.
A post mortem by the departments of Transportation and Public Works pointed out that city inspectors ignored signs that the subsurface had become unstable, with potholes, cracks and caving appearing on the street and sidewalk more than a year before the wall fell down.
Minor repairs were eventually made by DOT as the department waited for City Hall approval of a more comprehensive rehabilitation plan that never came.