The water is flowing again in Oakdale, and traffic on Interstate 694, which has been closed since a water main broke on Sunday, should be doing the same in a few days, officials said.
“We are speculating that by early this weekend everything should be done and [traffic] will be ready to roll,” said Shawn Nelson, Oakdale utility superintendent. “I can’t wait to stand on the 15th Street overpass and wave traffic through.”
Neither can the more than 87,000 motorists who have been detoured since the Minnesota Department of Transportation shut down the freeway between I-94 and Hwy. 36 after ground under the roadway became unstable.
Service to the last 10 customers who have been without water since the 12-inch pipe sprung a leak was restored Wednesday afternoon. At the same time, crews worked to fill in the void after 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons of water washed out the ground underneath the southbound lanes of I-694 near the 15th Street overpass, prompting the freeway’s closure.
The driving surface remained intact but it wasn’t safe for vehicles because of the erosion below it, said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht.
Crews have worked nearly around the clock “on minimal sleep” to make repairs, which included removing the 53-year-old pipe, installing and connecting the new one and repairing the roadway, Nelson said.
City workers suspect that an environmental factor such as heaving or shifting caused the water main break, Oakdale police spokeswoman Michelle Stark said earlier this week. An investigation is continuing into the cause, she said.
A resident who saw water accumulating about 9 a.m. Sunday called police. Equipment sensors at the Oakdale Public Works department also flagged the problem.
With water service restored and work on the water main nearly wrapped up, crews Friday will focus on completing road work. Nelson gave no specific time for the freeway’s opening, saying that will depend “on how the last chips fall.”