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Enbridge pipeline work causes section of Highway 2 to collapse in Bemidji

Engineers from the Minnesota Department of Transportation peer into a hole created by a pipeline boring under the U.S. Highway 2 bypass Tuesday afternoon after a portion of the highway collapsed. Eastbound traffic was detoured through the city. (Monte Draper/Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- A portion of U.S. Highway 2 collapsed Tuesday afternoon, prompting an emergency detour through Bemidji.

The collapse occurred during drilling for Enbridge Energy Corp.'s Alberta Clipper oil pipeline.

Lorraine Grymala, community affairs manager for Enbridge, said workers were boring a 36-inch pipeline under Highway 2 and everything was going as expected until a portion of the roadway in the center of the highway caved in.

"They immediately stopped the boring and contacted authorities," Grymala said.

No injuries were reported and no damage was reported to vehicles, she noted.

The collapse occurred at about 3 p.m. on the eastbound lanes near the Fifth Street exit along the Highway 2 bypass.

While workers prepared an emergency repair, traffic was diverted to Fifth Street and state Highway 197 through the city limits.

Westbound lanes of traffic were unaffected.

The closure along Highway 2 was from a point 300 yards east of the Fifth Street interchange, according to a press release from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office on behalf of the Minnesota State Patrol.

Grymala said Enbridge will assume responsibility for any road repair necessitated by its work.

Pipeline workers remained on scene through the duration of the repair, which was expected to be complete Tuesday evening.

Karen Bedeau, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said road workers were planning to fill the area where the road gave out, compact the area and pave it - but it will only be a temporary fix.

The area will need to settle, and the temporary fix will likely result in a bump, Bedeau said. Signage will be erected, if deemed necessary, to notify drivers of the bump.

"We will have to go in at a later date (for a permanent fix)," Bedeau said.

She did not know Tuesday evening whether the road will require weight restrictions in the meantime.

Grymala said incidents similar to Tuesday's collapse do not occur often, but "you just never know" what might happen on a project.

Engineers are required to go in and evaluate an area prior to any boring taking place, she said.

The eastbound lanes reopened by 9 p.m. Tuesday night.

The emergency repair work is a temporary fix until further assessment of the damage and permanent repair can be conducted. The temporary fix may result in a rough area or bump in the roadway and motorists are advised to be cautious.