Following a nearly yearlong effort to restore normalcy after a 48-inch water main burst at Juniper and Sansom Streets in Center City, the Philadelphia Water Department is aiming to finally reopen the area soon.

The break last July 3 caused more than 14 million gallons of water to flood the area, and left some buildings without power and running water for two weeks.

Water Department spokesperson John DiGiulio estimated that about 30 businesses sustained direct water damage, but “countless others” were affected by the restoration process and street closings.

The cause of the break will remain unknown, as investigations came up “inconclusive," said DiGiulio.

A series of delays

Construction crews work on repaving the road at 13th and Sansom Streets.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Construction crews work on repaving the road at 13th and Sansom Streets.

A number of factors led to the months-long delay in restoration, DiGiulio said. After an initial Water Department inspection, utility companies such as Peco and Philadelphia Gas Works had to do their own, which DiGiulio said took longer than projected.

Weather also had a big role, and will be a factor in whether the intersection will officially be reopened June 21, the latest target date. Precipitation pauses the restoration process, and makes paving stop.

Plans for the project itself took weeks to draw up. “There’s no plans on the books for when an emergency like this happens,” DiGiulio said.

The Water Department alone has spent about $1.7 million on the restoration. New sidewalks have also been put in place, but street-paving is ongoing.

Businesses seek reparations, with claims totaling ‘over a million dollars’

All of the businesses affected were given $15,000 to spend on advertisements for their locations, to help draw foot and vehicle traffic, through a grant from the Midtown Village Retail Association.

Those affected can also apply for a claim for damages and loss of revenue, though there’s a city-liability cap of $500,000 for all businesses. According to DiGiulio, the claims process is ongoing, with more than a million dollars in claims submitted, “well over” the cap. Disbursement amounts haven’t been determined.

Construction crews work on repaving the road among other fixes at 13th and Sansom Streets.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Construction crews work on repaving the road among other fixes at 13th and Sansom Streets.

Kate Moroney, director of operations for Time restaurant, attributed the delays to other utilities’ investigations.

“That was perhaps not as smooth as everything else,” Moroney said. “It’s kind of hard for the Water Department to manage their peers.”

Time was just one of the businesses that saw decreased visitation and traffic.

“By the time people get to 13th and Sansom, people just assume we aren’t open,” she said.

Moroney estimated that foot traffic for Time decreased by about 40 percent.

“We’re going to have to retrain people to walk down our street again," Moroney said. “We’re just happy to see it coming to a close.”