Water main break affects activities in busy heart of District

By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 17, 2010

The break of a water main near the Mall is guaranteed to bring trouble. The big break that occurred Friday night shut down a sizable portion of Constitution Avenue NW on Saturday, and it closed the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

That meant postponing opening day at the museum of the "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef" exhibit, a colorful display melding higher mathematics, handicraft and undersea biology.

Behind the disruption was the rupture of a 24-inch water main, which ripped up the roadbed near 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, according to D.C. Water and Sewer Authority spokeswoman Pamela Mooring.

The water main, installed in 1928, is "pretty large" for a system in which most pipes are 8 or 12 inches in diameter, Mooring said. We had "a lot of water coming out," she said, and road damage appeared substantial.

Constitution Avenue was closed from Ninth Street to 12th, and part of 10th was also closed in that area. Traffic was still restricted Saturday night, and it was not clear when the roads would reopen completely.

Mooring said work might continue through Sunday. She said workers expected to make a temporary street repair that would allow Monday morning traffic to flow unimpeded. Full repair would wait until next weekend, she said.

It was not immediately clear late Saturday night whether the Natural History museum would reopen Sunday. A museum spokesman said a decision was expected early in the day. The coral reef exhibit is scheduled to run through April 24.

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