June 23, 2018
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Congress Street water main break snarls Portland traffic

By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — A water main break on Portland’s Congress Street near the Interstate 295 overpass Friday morning caused traffic congestion into the evening commute. Repairs were completed at 7:15 p.m., according to the Portland Water District website.

Portland Water District spokeswoman Michelle Clements told the Bangor Daily News at the scene Friday the break was reported at around 11 a.m. The incident represents at least the 10th water main break on district lines since late August.

After the first nine, the district launched an internal investigation into the frequency of the breaks, the highest profile of which was a Sept. 6 event on Broadway in South Portland that backed up morning commuter traffic for miles and forced the temporary closures of several nearby businesses.

That investigation determined no negligence on the part of the water district, but also could not determine the direct cause of six of the nine breaks.

Friday’s water main break was expected to be less disruptive for water users, said Tony Alves, transmission distribution supervisor for the water district.

Alves said “four or five” buildings would have their water supply reduced — although not entirely cut off — during the fix, which was expected to take at least eight hours to complete.

He said the most significant effect of the break would be on traffic, because of the location of the necessary work on one of Portland’s major throughways. Highway off- and on-ramps lead directly into the section of Congress Street most affected by the break, said Alves.

There are two water mains passing through that area, 12-inch and 8-inch lines, respectively, Clements said. Workers at the scene determined the break was on the 8-inch line, and reduced the flow of that pipe.

Alves said the next steps involve isolating the break using equipment similar to sonar devices, then cutting open the roadway around where the pipe has broken in order to make repairs.

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