Block of downtown Ellsworth to close this weekend for sinkhole repair

Posted Nov. 09, 2011, at 8:24 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A busy section of downtown will be closed to through traffic Saturday night into Sunday as work crews attempt to repair a collapsed underground drainage system that caused a large sinkhole to open in the middle of Main Street this summer.

The block of Main Street from Water Street to Franklin Street likely will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning around 6 p.m. Saturday. The sidewalks on that stretch of Main Street will remain open to pedestrians, however.

Ted Talbot, a Maine Department of Transportation spokesman, said the contractor hopes to reopen the road — which is also Routes 1 and 3 — by Sunday afternoon, but that depends on how complicated the drainage system is to repair.

An 8- to 10-foot-deep sinkhole opened near the intersection of Main Street and Water Street on Aug. 2 after heavy rains. Workers from Ellsworth and the DOT later determined that a metal culvert and an aging clay pipe in an underground drainage system failed during the storm.

Gary Fortier, chairman of the City Council, said the city worked with the DOT and the contractor to figure out a time to do the work while causing minimal disruptions to drivers and downtown businesses.

Most traffic will be detoured onto either Water Street or State Street during the closure, although tractor-trailers initially will have to follow another route because the turn onto either road may be too tight. Electronic signs are being used to alert drivers to the changes.

Fortier said he hopes the work will be done by Sunday night. But he cautioned that it remains unclear how much of the drainage system will have to be replaced. Fortier also pointed out that the area to be excavated contains water and sewer pipes as well as telecommunications cables, so workers will have to proceed cautiously.

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