West Philly’s Massive Sinkhole Is Expected to Ruin Traffic for Another 3 Weeks

SEPTA will need to restore tracks for its Route 34 trolley — which serves more than 12,500 people a day — after the Water Department repairs the defective sewer that caused the hole.

west philly sinkhole

The sinkhole at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue | Photo by Claire Sasko

Sorry, West Philly: the massive, empty swimming pool of a sinkhole that recently opened just outside Clark Park isn’t going anywhere soon.

John Digiulio, a spokesperson for the Water Department, said it will take another three weeks for the organization’s crews to repair the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and 43rd Street, where the sinkhole opened. During that time frame, SEPTA will also have to restore trolley tracks along Baltimore Avenue that were damaged by the incident.

The 20-foot sinkhole has menaced traffic in the area since it opened last week. Digiulio said it was caused by a defective sewer line. He estimated it will take the Water Department 10 days to fix the sewer before SEPTA is able to repair its trolley tracks and the street is restored — pending consistent good weather, of course.

SEPTA trolley Route 34, which has an average daily ridership of more than 12,500 people, is disrupted from its course between 40th Street and 61st Street until the sinkhole and street are repaired. Shuttle buses are running from the 40th Street trolley portal to 61st Street and Baltimore Avenue.

Here’s a fun fact for you: Many nearby West Philly streets and properties stand atop what was once the 20-foot-wide Mill Creek Sewer, built between 1869 and 1895 — when it was the largest sewer conduit in the world. Sinkholes and home collapses have been recorded in the area since the 1930s (you can learn more about them here), though Digiulio said the Water Department doesn’t believe the sinkhole at 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue is related to the Mill Creek Sewer.

Meanwhile, the Route 34 detour aren’t the only problems West Philly commuters are facing right now: Trolley routes 10, 11 and 36 are also experiencing disruptions unrelated to the sinkhole. You can read more about those here. And as always, for all SEPTA-related service changes, check the organization’s real-time system status viewer.