Work continues in order to repair and re-open Old Canoe Creek Road between U.S. Highway 192 (13th Street) and Neptune Road in St. Cloud after a nine-foot diameter pipe collapsed on Dec. 18.

The city of St. Cloud said the project is a priority, and that construction should be complete and the road re-opened on Feb. 29, weather permitting.

The sidewalk on the east side of the road is still open for pedestrian traffic, and all businesses on that stretch of the road, facing 192 or Neptune, can be accessed using those roads or their entrances on Old Canoe Creek.

The nine-foot pipe needs to be entirely replaced, and had to be special ordered due to its unique size and structure. The city is also working with the Department of Transportation and the South Florida Water Management District on obtaining necessary permits, since FDOT maintains U.S. 192 and Old Canoe Creek crosses a SFWMD canal, but no city permits were required.

“It happened at a tough time for contractors, with crews winding down work for the holidays,” Director of Public Works Naseem Ghandour said.

Because of the scope of the project, which includes full engineering, demolishing some old infrastructure and building it new, moving utility lines, installing multiple sections of reinforced concrete box culverts and rebuilding the west-side sidewalk and guardrail, the work will continue for about another seven weeks, in order to finish a complete repair process.

“This is an entire new rebuild of the road infrastructure,” Ghandour said. “It’s an inconvenience, but it’s due to public safety. It’s not because we wanted to close down this important road. We’re pushing forward as fast we can in an efficient manner.”

Ghandour reiterated that the collapse was not the result of a sinkhole, and that street like many others in St. Cloud was inspected in September by an outside consultant and received a “very good” rating.

“This hole opened differently than a sinkhole would, and a sinkhole would continue to grow,” he said.

With the road closed, traffic that would use Old Canoe Creek between Neptune Road and 192 is being rerouted on Neptune east and west. It has resulted it heavier traffic on Sergeant Boyd Graham Road just to the west, so a temporary traffic signal has been put in place at Boyd Graham and Neptune, and county and city traffic engineers have worked to synchronize the signals on Neptune Road for the best traffic flow during this trying time, and continue to adjust it based on how the traffic responds, Ghandour said. The city has also received feedback from the businesses affected.