Sections of Fort Pitt Blvd., Mon Wharf remain closed due to water main break

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 6:40 a.m.

Several Downtown streets closed by a large rupture in a water main that flooded part of the Parkway East will not reopen Friday morning.

Gushing water poured onto the highway early Thursday, causing concerns about ice in single-digit temperatures and snarling the morning commute as crews scrambled to shut it off.

“We had some minor water damage and an employee who was trapped in an elevator for an hour or two,” said John Perkosky, a partner at Ogg Murphy & Perkosky, whose building is near the site of the 12-inch water main break at Fort Pitt Boulevard and Wood Street. “Water had leaked into the bottom of the elevator shaft. It short-circuited, and she was stuck in the elevator until the next person arrived. ... It was an interesting start to the morning.”

Crews hoped to have water line repairs completed overnight, but officials said Fort Pitt Boulevard inbound from Smithfield Street to Wood Street will remain closed at least through Friday afternoon. Wood Street at First Avenue also will remain closed, as will the Mon parking wharf.

Authorities closed the streets after discovering an 8- to 10-foot break in the line about 4:30 a.m. The closures caused some confusion in finding parking, commuters said.

“I had to swing around, come down Market Street and come the wrong way,” said Pete Scarvelis, who works at Dymun & Co. on First Avenue. “It wasn't quite as bad as I thought it would be.”

The water main was in the same trench as a 20-inch gas main, so it required extensive hand digging to repair, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin said. She said Equitable Gas crews also were working in the area because there were reports of a gas odor.

The break occurred over a low-lying portion of the Parkway East known as “The Bathtub” — between Grant Street and the Fort Pitt Bridge — and water cascaded into the westbound lanes for about two hours, closing one lane and causing significant traffic delays. Crews shut off the flow of water by 6:30 a.m., and the westbound lanes reopened about 9 a.m. Crews from PennDOT and Pittsburgh Public Works treated roadways with salt.

“When I came in this morning at about 6 a.m., it was just the beginning,” said Matt McClelland, chef di cucina at Osteria 100 on Wood Street. “The road was all iced over.”

Water seeped into basements of nearby buildings, including Point Park University's Conestoga Hall. Officials shut off the heat and electricity to the building as a precaution, and the university moved several students to another building, spokeswoman Terra McBride said.

The building sustained water damage in the basement, she said.

Water also flowed into the West Penn Building on Wood Street, but a drain helped prevent damage to the building, she said.

Geoffrey Ellis of Quality Services said he knew when he turned on the television he would be clearing basements along Fort Pitt Boulevard.

“Anytime there's a water break, these buildings get water in the basement,” Ellis said. “Everybody knew we were coming down here with pumps by 7 a.m.”

No businesses or residences lost water service, Rubin said. The Pittsburgh Parking Authority closed the Mon Wharf parking lot while crews fixed the break. Perkosky said some employees were an hour late to work because they had trouble finding nearby parking.

“Our morning got off to a crazy, but slow start,” he said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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