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HAMMOND — Calumet Avenue between Michigan and Sibley streets is closed until further notice after a site inspection Thursday revealed a massive cavity beneath the roadway tied to INDOT's reconstruction work. 

An Indiana Department of Transportation contractor accidentally pierced the top of an 84-inch brick sewer May 4 during the course of INDOT's reconstruction of the Calumet Avenue Bridge over the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, according to a city news release. 

Southbound lanes are closed due to the ground underneath being washed out.

Northbound lanes were still open as of Thursday afternoon, but a city engineering department official said northbound lanes will have to be closed to traffic during repairs. 

Attempts by the contractor to shore up the area and keep the roadway open have been unsuccessful since the May 4 incident. The roadway was only being supported by a 6-inch slab of reinforced concrete slab. 

INDOT’s contractor will begin immediately excavating for repair to the sewer. 

The closure of a major thoroughfare will likely cause headaches for drivers in the days to come, and Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said he's hearing the repairs could take up to a week. 

INDOT's bridge project has been underway since early April with lane closures in place. According to INDOT, it's possible the closure could last through the end of May.

"(INDOT) tried to patch it up, hoping the structure would hold," McDermott said. "It's not an easy fix."

Hammond Sanitary District Sewer maintenance crews performed a visual inspection of the inside of the pipe and found a 6-foot-long by 2-foot-wide section of the top of the sewer missing and a significant amount of sand inside the sewer, the city said.

A site inspection revealed an 8-foot-deep by 6-foot-wide cavity directly under the southbound lane of Calumet Avenue and directly over the combined sewer, according to the city. 

McDermott said he wants Hammond residents to know this is an INDOT project and any repairs made will not be on city residents' dime. 

"I want Hammond taxpayers to know they are not on the hook," McDermott said. 

Because Chicago Avenue is still closed, Hammond police said they do not have an alternate truck route at this time.

"For now, we are using Michigan east to Indianapolis Blvd. Please drive safely and use caution in these areas," Hammond police said a release. 

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Public safety reporter

Lauren covers breaking news, crime and courts for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet covering government, public policy, and the region’s heroin epidemic. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.