Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hole in One

In recent weeks, regular shoppers at the Memphis Farmers Market have found the market's parking lot blocked off and full of police cars.

"Some people are angry about it," says Sharon Leicham, farmers market board chair. "They're used to parking in that lot; it's one of the amenities of the market."

But the parking lot should be back to normal soon. An 8-foot-wide, 18-foot-deep sinkhole — and the associated repairs — have closed the nearby Central Station parking lot for more than a month but it is expected to be repaired early this month.

In late April, a rain culvert underneath Central Station began collapsing. MATA owns the building and the city of Memphis is spearheading the repairs.

In addition to several downtown residents, Central Station is home to the Memphis Police Department's South Main precinct. Police spokesperson Monique Martin says the sinkhole has not affected the precinct's crime-fighting ability.

"We have had to adapt to a different parking lot as repairs are underway," she says. "The adaptation is like a leak under the kitchen sink when you have to take all the cleaning products from the cabinet and move them somewhere else, so the plumber can have room to fix the problem."

With police vehicles parked in a lot off Front Street near G.E. Patterson, visitors to the Memphis Farmers Market has been diverted to a nearby grassy lot.

“During the market, we always have a volunteer on the street,” Leicham says. “The police do allow vehicles with handicap stickers [to park in the paved lot.]”

Central Station is also a stop for Amtrak’s City of New Orleans line. But the train tracks at the station have been removed for the repairs.

Marc Magliari, a Chicago-based spokesperson for Amtrak, says the repairs should be completed early this month.

Until then, Amtrak will continue bypassing Memphis proper. Local passengers are driven 10 miles to and from the train by bus.

“Once they replace the underground culvert and fill that back in, the railroad owner can put the track back into place, and we’ll resume service to Memphis,” Magliari says. “Direct service to Memphis, that is.”

I've got a call into the city, but haven't heard any additional information from them yet.

The photos (look how tiny the people are in comparison to the hole/culvert) are courtesy of the police department.

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