Tapped gas line halts Hiawatha light rail construction project

Monica LaBelle

Construction of the Hiawatha Avenue light rail line was interrupted Wednesday morning when Minnesota Transit contractors tapped a four-inch gas line in downtown Minneapolis.

Natural gas leaked and was vented into the air on Fifth Street South between Hennepin and Nicollet avenues. A nearby building was temporarily evacuated before the gas was turned off at 10:45 a.m.

“The situation was made safe rather quickly,” said Rolf Lund, spokesman for Reliant Energy Minnegasco. He added there was no gas service disruption.

The Minneapolis Fire Department responded to the gas leak site and tested gas levels at nearby buildings, said the department’s public information officer, Kristi Rollwagen.

No injuries were reported.

Metro Transit project director Ed Hunter said the contractors were aware of the gas lines while working, but that one contractor struck the line with the bucket of a backhoe while removing concrete rubble.

Hunter said the gas leak is not the only mishap since the light rail project began in January 2001, adding that workers struck an electrical line more than a month ago.

The gas line leak did not impede progress of building the transitway, Hunter said.

“We’ve been pretty lucky on the job so far. Our biggest problem to date has been the heavy rain,” he said. “All in all it cost about 45 minutes.”


Monica LaBelle covers environment and transportation and welcomes comments at [email protected]