City Desk

Downtown Sinkhole, Still Unrepaired, Enters Local Zeitgeist

The downtown sinkhole at 14th and F streets NW is entering its second day of causing rush-hour havoc, and it's still not clear when it will be closed again.

"It is a very complex situation out there," says DC Water spokeswoman Pamela Mooring, who says she doesn't have an estimate on when it will be fixed. DC Water crews will be working 24 hours on the repair until it's closed, according to Mooring.

The 15-foot-deep sinkhole started when a piece of concrete fell onto a buried sewer line from 1897, breaking it. Thirty feet of line need to be replaced, but the repairs have been complicated by the many layers of utilities, including old trolley lines, above the sewer.

The sinkhole's beginnings were visible for more than a week, with several people, including Washington Post reporter Tim Craig, worrying that a handful of traffic cones and a sometimes-dislodged metal plate didn't seem like enough protection. A District Department of Transportation inspector also noted over the weekend that the plate was shifting. But for reasons that still aren't entirely clear, the sinkhole couldn't be investigated until yesterday, according to DDOT spokeswoman Monica Hernandez, when enough D.C. utilities agencies could send personnel to the hole and realize the extent of the damage.

Meanwhile, the sinkhole has earned all the accoutrements of a buzzy local news story in 2013: a crowd of onlookers and TV cameras, a parody account, and a novelty T-shirt, set to be on sale tomorrow.

Photo by Will Sommer

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