MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. - A ruptured water main has shut down part of a major highway in Berks County, and it will remain that way for days.
The main flooded part of Route 61 in Muhlenberg Township, in the area of Reading Crest Avenue and Witman Road, on Tuesday morning. It will stay closed until repairs are fixed, said officials.
Crews were forced to dig deep to repair the 36-inch water main that broke underneath a railroad bridge, which raised concern the bridge may have been compromised.
"In that area to get machines to excavate it takes time because we are very close to the footers of the bridge so we have to be more careful," said Jamal Abodalo, director of engineering and codes for the township.
According to engineers, the bridge is structurally sound. Barricades blocked off the busy stretch of 61, and the closure has created a nightmare for drivers.
"There I sat and there I sat and I sat some more and I sat some more," said Dona Gregonis, who was caught in the backup Tuesday.
Traffic was being rerouted to the Fifth Street Highway, also designated as Route 222 Business. Cars were bumper to bumper, and several drivers were forced to turn around.
"I have to use another road and it's going to be a little bit further for me and I have to waste more gas," said Kaysis Severano, who was trying to get to his home in Reading after work.
The water main is owned by the Reading Area Water Authority. Officials said no customers are without water, which is safe to drink. There was a reduction in pressure early Tuesday morning, but it was back to normal later in the day.
Several other water mains broke in the last few months along the same stretch of 61. Then, there's the other construction on 61 near Route 222. The combination has tested drivers' patience, and now has them changing their schedules.
"In order to get to work on time we have to get out a little bit earlier," said driver Alba Arias.
RAWA said crews will work through Tuesday night, and they hoped to have the main fixed by Wednesday morning. Then, they are faced with the tedious process of fixing the road.
Officials hope to reopen the stretch of Route 61 by Monday.Images: Water main break closes Route 61 in Muhlenberg
Allentown, PA 18102
- Berks Patrick Manwiller / 69 News