Modesto officials today are assessing the damage today to the Carpenter Road Bridge after a security guard discovered that a water pipe had burst early Tuesday.
The bridge is closed to traffic after roughly 1.3 million gallons of water washed out the dirt under part of the road leading to the bridge and the dirt by a bridge abutment on the structure's northeast side.
Modesto officials plan to meet later today to assess how long it will take to make repairs and reopen the bridge to motorists. The bridge is a main arterial connecting Modesto to Patterson. The bridge is undergoing a seismic retrofit that is expected to be completed by June.
City officials said the 16-inch water line serves city and county customers south of the Tuolumne River. These customers did not lose water because the water main feeds into storage tanks that supply the customers.
Thousands of drivers relying on west Modesto's Carpenter Road bridge over the Tuolumne River will want to find another route, perhaps for several days, because a pipe break early Tuesday washed out soil under one end of the bridge, closing it to traffic in both directions.
"It's causing a traffic nightmare," said Modesto Regional Fire Battalion Chief Cecil Ridge.
"The hole is probably big enough to put a Volkswagen in."
Motorists can take Highway 99 or Crows Landing Road and the Seventh Street bridge to the east, or Paradise, Shiloh and Grayson roads to the west.
No one was hurt before a security guard noticed the problem at about 6 a.m. on the northeast side of the bridge, which crews have been upgrading for at least three months to better withstand an earthquake.
It was not clear Tuesday whether that work will stay on track to finish in June, how long the bridge might be closed or whether engineers might allow one lane of traffic.
A Modesto public works employee referred questions to city administrators, whose offices were closed for the holidays.
Ridge and Modesto police Lt. Jeramy Young said the hole seems significant enough that drivers might have to find detours for a week or more.
"It's a pretty big hole," Ridge said. "It ain't a quick, easy fix."
Firefighters quickly stemmed the flow gushing from the pipe, and New Year's celebrations were interrupted for other workers responding with backhoes, dump trucks and other heavy equipment.
Light traffic on a holiday morning when many revelers slept was "probably a saving grace," Ridge said, as the bridge normally carries a heavy flow of commuter traffic.