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City says progress being made after car falls into utility vault

City of Windsor officials said there is substantial progress being made on a collapse that sent asphalt and a vehicle into an underground utility vault on Tuesday.

All traffic lights are now functioning, and Enwin Utilities Inc. reports that 29 customers remain without power in the impacted area, which is situated between Park Street and University Avenue on the west side of Ouellette Avenue, as well as the Royal Windsor Terrace at 380 Pelissier St. where the collapse occurred in a back alley.

“It certainly is a very unique situation,” explained Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

City officials said the next steps will be to remove the vehicle from the vault and replace damaged electrical equipment.

“It is difficult to remove a vehicle at that particular location in the alley. They're working to get all of the apparatus on site that they need to remove this vehicle to then be able to have a full assessment of the hydro infrastructure that was damaged and then make the appropriate repairs,” added Dilkens.

A grate and pavement over a hydro vault collapsed in downtown Windsor, Ont. on Sept. 19, 2023 after a car parked on top of it, leading to power outages. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)The vault is privately owned, so officials are working with the property management group to have the vehicle removed as quickly as possible. Until that happens, the city said there’s no way to forecast how quickly the equipment can be replaced and power restored to the remaining affected customers.

“Things are evolving as quickly as we can make them happen but this is private property. We need the owner to work with our building team to make sure that they can get the vehicle and the collapsed concrete out of that vault so that the hydro repairs can then be made,” said Dilkens.

Dilkens said the solution is not as simple as bringing in a crane and lifting the vehicle out. Because of the infrastructure in the alley and the size of the alley, stabilizers need to be installed first before a crane could be brought in.

“So they're looking at different alternatives. But first and foremost, we need the building owner to be able to work with the building department to agree to that alternative, and then make it happen so that we can remove all of the collapsed material from the vault and then go in and make the repairs to the hydro infrastructure,” said Dilkens.

The mayor said he expected it to take some time before corrections happen, and implored downtown property owners to be aware of underground hydro vaults on their property.

A grate and pavement over a hydro vault collapsed in downtown Windsor, Ont. on Sept. 19, 2023 after a car parked on top of it, leading to power outages. (Chris Campbell/CTV News Windsor)“Every building owner who has a vault really needs to make sure that they're undertaking frequent inspections to make sure that the vaults and the covers on the vaults are stable, that they're secure, and not an imminent risk of collapse,” he said.

The city will be placing garbage bins on Park Street and Ouellette Avenue for residents of the Royal Windsor Terrace and area store owners to dispose of their garbage until such time as the alley can be re-opened to resume normal garbage collection.

Cogeco customers impacted by the outage are expected to have service restored by Wednesday evening.

“Everyone needs to be aware that these vaults do exist, and the people who own the vaults have to make sure they're doing the inspections because there's critical infrastructure underground that supports a lot of different residents in the different areas throughout the city,” Dilkens added. 

— With files from CTV News Windsor's Chris Campbell Top Stories

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