Repairs to a broken sewer line that caused a sinkhole on Baldwin Street between Prospect Street and Glenwood Avenue were completed Saturday, but the street will remain closed indefinitely until the large section of missing asphalt can be repaved, according to City Manager Andy Walker.

Paving could take place this week, Walker said, but an exact schedule won’t be determined until Monday.

A small hole was discovered in the Baldwin Street pavement Thursday afternoon. By Friday, the hole had grown and the broken sewer line was discovered.

The exact cause is not known, Walker said. A void under the sewer line likely caused it to fail, and erosion of the stone culvert located below the sewer line may have caused the void.

The sewer line is located above a large sandstone culvert that carries an unnamed tributary of French Creek under Baldwin Street. Walker said that a 30-inch stormwater line enters the culvert opposite from where the void occurred. Stormwater shooting through that line, he speculated, may have scoured the sandstone wall beneath the sewer, creating a void that led to the sewer line breaking.

It’s also possible that a break in the sewer line contributed to the void underneath, Walker said.

Whatever the specific cause, the sinkhole is symptomatic of a larger issue affecting Meadville and many other areas: aging infrastructure.

“Absolutely,” Walker said. “This is not unusual for the age of our infrastructure.”

Walker was uncertain of the age of the culvert, but said it was at least 50 years old.

The sinkhole was unrelated to the repaving and bank stabilization work performed nearby on Baldwin Street in 2017 as part of a joint project between the city and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“The void isn’t near that bank,” Walker said. “It’s on the opposite side of the street.”

When Meadville City Council discussed the project in March 2017, Walker said that while the retaining wall holding the fence and sidewalk along Baldwin Street in place is “buckled and completely deteriorated,” the culvert itself was “in very good shape.”

Overall, the culvert remains in good shape, Walker said on Saturday, but “one section where that pipe comes out appears to have eroded around the stonework.”

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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