More than a month after gas fire, E 60th St. reopens

The street damaged by last month’s gas main fire near 60th & Nicollet is now open to traffic, restoring easy access to businesses in the area.

According to a city press release, crews have finished restoring 60th Street East between Nicollet Avenue and Interstate 35W. The exit to 60th Street from I-35W is also open, along with the onramp to the freeway.

The dramatic March 17 fire — visible to drivers on the freeway and onlookers for blocks in any direction of the flame — left a gaping hole in 60th St. and caused extensive damage to underground utility pipes.

In the aftermath of the blaze, CenterPoint Energy said the gas leak and fire occurred on a 20-inch steel natural gas line that was installed in 1994 to serve the greater Minneapolis area.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Becca Viden, public relations manager for CenterPoint, said the company is concluding its investigation and is “very close” to issuing a press release detailing findings about the cause of the fire. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety contributed to CenterPoint’s investigation.

The hole in 60th St. most directly affected the Cub Foods store located just a few hundred feet from the damaged gas main. According to reports published at the time of the blaze, the temperature was so searing at the front of the store that customers and employees were forced to run out the back exit.

Mona Velebir, assistant store director for the Cub near 60th & Nicollet, said the month-long closure of 60th St. “absolutely” had a negative impact on the store’s business.

“We only had one entrance to the store open. I would say business-wise, we were affected the most,” she said.

Though the street has been repaired, the traffic signal on 60th between Nicollet Ave. and the freeway is still out of service, and temporary stop signs remain in place. A replacement traffic signal is expected to be in operation by mid-May.