Massive water main break closes Fort Pitt Blvd., swamps Parkway East

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PITTSBURGH —

Westbound lanes through the “bathtub” area of the Parkway East reopened about 9 a.m. as crews work to repair a water main break that sent water gushing down onto the pavement early Thursday.

Officials closed Fort Pitt Boulevard from Wood Street to Smithfield Street after the 12-inch main break was reported about 4:30 a.m., said Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin.

Fort Pitt Boulevard is closed from Smithfield Street to Wood Street and Wood Street is closed at 1st Avenue. 

Both areas will remain closed through the Thursday evening rush hour. Repairs are expected to be completed by 8:00 pm tonight.

The break occurred over a portion of the Parkway East known as “the bathtub” — between Grant Street and the Fort Pitt Bridge — and water poured down into the westbound lanes for about two hours, closing one lane and causing significant traffic delays.

Tom Palmosina, with the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, said the freezing cold temperatures are mostly to blame.

"This is a routine thing this time of year in all these cities. The water lines are old, and the infrastructures are old. So, you’re dealing with water lines that are 40 to 50 years old," Palmosina said.

Water seeped into basements of nearby buildings, include Point Park University‘s Conestoga Hall. Officials shut off the heat and electricity to the building as a precaution, and the university evacuated a handful of students to another building, spokeswoman Terra McBride said.

The building sustained water damage in the basement due to flooding, she said. Water also flowed into the West Penn building on Wood Street, but a nearby drain helped prevent damage to the building, she said.

Barriers are blocking traffic from turning onto Wood Street from Boulevard of the Allies.

Channel 11’s Trisha Pittman reported that PennDOT crews are treating the area with two salt trucks every five minutes in hopes of preventing the water from turning into ice.

Crews shut off the flow of water by 6:30 a.m. and are working on repairs, Rubin said. There has been no loss of water service to businesses or residences in the area, Rubin said.

Equitable Gas spokesman Scott Waitlevertch said a gas line may have been affected and crews are at the scene investigating.

“The force of the water main break and the gas line underground probably pulled something apart which caused the smell of gas,” Palmosina said.

The gas leak caused several building to be evacuated, including a Point Park University dorm, Channel 11’s Dave Bondy reported.

“They said there was a leak in the building and the power was going to be turned off for a few house. They evacuated everybody,” student Breanna Robinson said.

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority temporarily closed the Mon Wharf parking lot while crews fix the break.

Channel 11's news exchange partners at TribLIVE contributed to this report.