Sunday night water main break could mean Monday morning motorists should steer clear of Kirkwood and Washington

Update 8:08 a.m. Monday, July 22: The intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and Washington Street won’t be open for a couple of days. As of 7:30 a.m. on Monday, the drinking water main was reconnected, but a stormwater pipe still needed to be reconnected and a manhole needed to be nudged back into place or reset, according to Holly McLauchlin, public affairs specialist, who spoke with The Beacon at the scene. The city’s director of utilities, Vic Kelson, told The Beacon Monday morning the whole intersection would need to be cut out, because the escaping water from the break had undermined a substantial area around the break. He estimated it would take two or three days before the intersection is open again to traffic.

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The view south down Washington Street at Kirkwood just before 8 p.m. on July 21, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Sometime before 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, a water main broke in the middle at the intersection of Kirkwood Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Bloomington and brought traffic to a stop. By 8 p.m. Bloomington police had closed off both streets for a block in each direction, and cordoned off the intersection itself with police tape.

The city of Bloomington’s utilities director, Vic Kelson, was on the scene around 8:30 p.m. He told The Beacon the break would take at least eight hours to repair after the water was turned off. Just before 9 p.m. a crew was working with long T-handled wrenches to turn the valves. Kelson did not think new asphalt would be laid down by the end of the night.

Eddie Balkey, a downtown Bloomington resident, told The Beacon he was driving west on Kirkwood. As he arrived at the intersection with Washington, a three-way stop, the street erupted. Water was initially gushing maybe six to seven feet in the air, he said. The geyser had maybe an eight- to nine-foot diameter. Balkey said he backed up until he could get turned around to take a different route home.

Motorists who returned to their cars parked inside the blocked off area got instructions from police officers. Some were able to just head the “wrong” way up Washington out of the area. Others, who had parked westbound on Kirkwood east of Washington, needed to wait a bit—for other cars to leave, so they would not have to pull forward towards the break. That’s because it was not clear how stable the roadway was.

Here are some photos from the scene through about midnight.


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