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Posted on Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

Gas leak shuts down East Liberty and South Division streets in Ann Arbor

By Kyle Feldscher


An Ann Arbor fire truck shuts down Liberty Street after a gas leak.

Angela Cesere |

A gas leak on East Liberty Street has caused Ann Arbor firefighters to close down the area near the Google building, according to police.

DTE Energy spokesman John Austerberry said the leak was caused by a contractor working the area that hit a six-inch steel gas main running through the area.

DTE crews were still in the area working to get the gas shut off so repairs to the gas main, which puts out 10 pounds of pressure, could be made, Austerberry said.

There was no estimate on how long that work would take, Austerberry said, speaking just after 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Liberty Street was closed on either side of Division Street with one fire truck blocking traffic near Thompson Street and another blocking traffic just west of the Division Street intersection. Division Street was also shut down south of Liberty Street.

The McKinley Town Centre at the intersection of Division and Liberty was being evacuated, according to dispatchers.

Police and fire officials were not able to immediately comment on the situation as they were in the process of responding to the gas leak just before 5 p.m. Thursday.

Pedestrians were still allowed to walk through the area Thursday evening.

Check back with as we get more information on this incident.

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Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

The congestion of driving in Ann Arbor was even more congested, yay.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 11:55 a.m.

It's obvious that the contractor who hit a steel 6" steel gas main and caused it to leak was careless and disregarded the fact that the line was supposed to be located (by hand or marked) prior to excavating with heavy equipment to prevent damage to substructures underground. Maybe DTE needs to mark their gas lines better or at least have someone standby who knows where the lines are to let the excavators know to watch out. Either they knocked off a fixed fitting on the gas main or the excavator gouged the pipe to cause it to leak, the amount of damage created it to make it leak had to be substantial in order to damage a 6" steel pipe or it was already leaking due to corrosion or faulty installation. Ann Arbor has a high amount of gas leaks throughout the city, apparently DTE or whoever owns the pipelines do not keep a very good vigil on leak repairs or maintaining lines in order. When notified to repair leaks in the street they do not follow up after finding the leaks by a technician, they rather wait as long as they can before making repairs or customers complain. Last year they had a furniture company store in Detroit that was flattened due to a natural gas explosion that killed a salesperson and I believe seriously injured another employee, this was all caused by a leaking gas main that DTE or whoever owned the gas line failed to maintain as needed. Unfortunately this will be happening again and possibly here in A2 where you have a large number of gas leaks throughout the city that have been neglected, any way to save money for them and profit for shareholders. Former CEO of DTE is now the CEO for PG&E in California, all due to the explosion of a gas line that killed a number of customers along with destroying 8-10 homes in a quiet neighborhood in San Francisco, go figure. I just happen to have been a pipeline engineer for Sempra Energy for 30+ years.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

This may have just happened to be an accident.

Jojo B

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

This incident was the perfect storm for traffic problems. There was no escape from the downtown. It took me 30 minutes to get anywhere out of the traffic jam thanks to the parking garage construction closing 5th and taking out a lane on S.Division, plus the construction on Thompson taking out a turning lane and everybody getting funneled to the already slow State St. If anybody wants to wreak havoc on A2 in the future, simply block the intersection of S.Division and Liberty. You'll be amazed at how it creates gridlock stretching 10 blocks in all directions. I wish our town had a traffic flow expert who could improve the bottlenecks and synchronize the lights to prevent (illegal) idling and wasted time.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 7:52 p.m.

Closed streets = no traffic flow. Accidents and street closures will often have that as a result. Your issue with traffic in the area absent a gas leak and a closed streets is a different issue.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Actually, I exited the Fourth and Williams garage on the Williams side, crossed Main and took Ashley down to Fetch and back up to Main and managed to get out of town pretty quickly. There were 10 or so cars in front of me with the same idea, but it still moved smoothly and I was out of town in 10 minutes.

Spencer Thomas

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:02 a.m.

I walked out of work at the corner of 5th and Liberty about 6:30. Eastbound traffic on Liberty was being forced to make a U-turn -- there was a police car blocking the street and some cones in the middle of the intersection. It was a mess, you can be sure.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

I also came out of work at the corner of 5th and Liberty last night at 5:00 and spotted the police car blocking Liberty--we immediately asked the cop if they were there to finally stop the red light runners running over pedestrians and he answered, "nah." Not sure why they didn't block Liberty off at Fourth Avenue and stop the traffic having to detour through the post office parking lot and back out to Williams.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

The building is the McKinley Town Centre as stated later in the article. Referring to the same buliding as the "Google Building" is not accurate.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Right, because everyone refers to the 777 building by its proper name and not the 777 building.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 1:06 a.m.

Google is the biggest tenant in the building, the name is on the building, what's wrong with calling it the Google Building? I don't understand the big uproar over calling it the Google Building? Does the pretentiousness ever end? If you're not the owner then why care?


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:32 a.m.

No, this area is now known as "Midtown". Where that came from I can't tell you.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3:03 a.m.

Back in the old days Ann Arbor Main St. was called 'downtown' and the State St. area was Uptown. I guess one of the townies decided that anything in between should be called Midtown?


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 11:19 p.m.

Just more underground parking related buffoonery.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

Lot's of buffoonery involved with the underground parking structure, but this appears to have nothing to do with that. I'm guessing it had something to do with the mini backhoe on Division just outside Bar Louie, hidden behind the fire truck pictured above.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : midnight

Was it the underground parking structure work that caused this leak? I didn't see that in the article?


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

I hope the DTE crews are not smoking while looking for the gas leak...A few months ago there was a gas leak near Laky's on S. Main street, and DTE had the parking lot blocked with cones. While looking for the gas leak, one of the DTE guys lights a cigarette.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3 p.m.

It's 14 parts per million for the right ignition, a cigarette may not be hot enough but the match or lighter will ignite it along with a hot spark, when welding on a live gas steel pipe the heat does not penetrate the steel pipe, only at around 1200 degrees, as the pipe starts to melt a welding rod fills in behind along with the item you are welding onto it.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3:49 a.m.

@actionjackson, if you take care of the small stuff you take care of the big stuff (and, did I mention, the small stuff?).


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

Well DBH there are suspenders and belts or there are those that are not necessarily stupid, they just are more adventurous and not worried about the small stuff.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

@actionjackson, even if everything you state is true (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), lighting a cigarette or producing any other nonessential flame or spark in that situation is not only imprudent, it's stupid, no matter how low the risk.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

Actually there needs to be 10 parts air to 1 part natural gas to ignite. The odds of having that perfect ignition point with the relatively low heat source from a cigarette and the 10 to 1 mixture is very unlikely to produce anything. They weld gas pipes with the gas flowing through them and that is not as hazardous as it sounds.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

There is a under ground utility co working on that corner. Wonder if they hit something? !?!


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:48 p.m.

As far as I know nobody called it "The Google Building Area". A quick Google search confirms this.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

Thank you for bothering to log in to write this comment. I was about to do the same thing. Thank you sblower.


Thu, Feb 9, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Whoa! Google has been in town all of ten minutes in the grand scheme of things and we're calling that section of Liberty the Google building area?? Call me old school, but really?


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Should be the Kempf House area, since that's an older building.


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

Seriously? This is what you need to call attention to? Why not be thankful that no one was injured? Whoa!


Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 12:16 a.m.

Totally. It's been "Tally Hall" and "Liberty Square" and "the parking deck above the Michigan Theater".