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I-270 reopens after six-hour close; work continues

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UPDATE 8:11 a.m.: Washington Gas VP Eric Grant tells ABC7's Jummy Olabanji that crews are working to remove about 25 feet of mud above the broken pipe.

He said that rain was a major factor. Once mud is removed they can assess damage to the pipe, and see what needs to be done. Grant wouldn't say how long it will take to fix it.

MD 121 eastbound still has only one lane open, but traffic isn't an issue at this time.

I-270 reopens after six-hour close; work continues

A gas leak shut down I-270 for more than six hours and slowed down traffic to a crawl Monday. The interstate was reopened around 10:40 p.m.

The leak shut down I-270 at Father Hurley Boulevard and southbound at Route 109. Crews from Washington Gas have brought the leak down to safe level, fire officials said, and are continuing work on the pipe.

Units from the fire department will remain on the scene. Clarksburg Road and the ramps to Clarksburg road will remain closed through the night as crews continue their work.

The gas leak caused much more than the normal commuter nightmare. The situation was a major headache for drivers in Montgomery County.

A six-mile stretch of I-270 had been shut down since the middle of the evening rush hour, backing up traffic from nearly Frederick down to Gaithersburg. Hundreds of people were trapped in their cars for most of the night.

Construction workers hit unmarked gas line

Montgomery County assistant fire chief Scott Graham said authorities were called to the scene at about 4 p.m. because construction workers severed a 6-inch gas main.

“The units described the sound similar to that of a freight train, which they identified as a very large gas line that had been ruptured underground,” said Scott Graham, assistant chief of the Montgomery County Fire Department.

The pipe is 28 feet under ground -- the gas leaked with such force it threw dirt into the air.

“It smells like rotten eggs, it smells like gas. My eyes are itchy,” described Clarksburg resident Michelle Munger.

The fire department had to close down I-270 and other main roads because any spark from a car engine to a cigarette could have caused an explosion.

The line was hit by a utility crew working to fix a different gas line. They struck the secondary line because it was unmarked.

“The contractor on the scene had their safety officers, their supervisors, they had the area surveyed, they knew where they were going. This was just an identified line that was missed by someone,” Graham said.

Residents are irked that a gas line could so easily be missed.

“When you're dealing with elements like that that are extremely dangerous to us, you have to be careful that proper precautions are put in place,” said Justin Elliott, who lives in Clarksburg.

A second gas leak was reported less than a mile from the first. It is not related to the first.

Monday afternoon, the Maryland State Highway Administration sent out this note: I-270 is currently closed between MD 27 and MD 109. MD 121 (Clarksburg Road) has been closed between I-270 and MD 355. Motorists are urged to avoid I-270 if possible. Detours have been established and motorists are being directed through the closures. For up to date information, log onto www.chart.state.md.us, then local traveler information for the latest traffic updates.

I-270 closed

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