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Work crews by Wednesday morning hope to have fixed a swimming pool-sized crater along U.S. 41 in East Naples, causing traffic snarls since Sunday.

A 16-inch pipe burst Sunday at the intersection of Guilford Road and U.S. 41 East, causing two lanes of the main thoroughfare to collapse, officials said.

The 30-year old irrigation pipe burst north of Rattlesnake Hammock Road, as water leaked onto U.S. 41 East when the pipe burst, which caused the lanes to collapse. 

"The pipe broke because it was old," said Margie Hapke, Collier County government's public information coordinator. "They put it in in 1988."

The county hopes to have all lanes open by early Wednesday but they have to wait for the asphalt to cure, Hapke said.

"It was a reclaimed water line, not a drinking water line," Hapke said. "A reclaimed water line is used for irrigating parks, golf courses and medians in the roadways."

There were 15 construction workers repairing the roads starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, and they're likely to have a 14-hour work day, Ajax Paving Industries Inc. Project Superintendent Charlie McCleaf said.

"This is something you can't start and stop — once you start it, you gotta finish it," McCleaf said.

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Ajax is using 1,000 tons of asphalt to fix this, McCleaf said.

"You could have fit a bus in that hole," McCleaf said.

Collier County hired emergency utility contractor D.N. Higgins to fix the pipe Monday afternoon, and Ajax Paving starting paving and putting asphalt down Tuesday morning.

The water from the pipe burst also damaged the median in the intersection, which Collier County workers are repairing. The team hopes to have all lanes open Tuesday night by 8 p.m., but there will still be brick and curb work in the median left to do.

Detours are set up with signs and cones, and Collier County is making the repairs under the guidance and rules of the Florida Department Of Transportation, Hapke said.

The southernmost entrance to Naples Towne Centre South lines up with Guilford Road.

Chris Martin, assistant manager at Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, across the road from where the pipe burst, said that less people stopped in the store Sunday because of the traffic and damage.

"It hurt our sales, probably by 50 percent," Martin said.

When the pipe first burst, there was discussion as to whether it should be handled by the city of Naples or Collier County, FDOT Government Affair Liaison Zac Burch said. After determining it should be fixed by Collier County, the county shut the water to the pipe off by Sunday afternoon to prevent more damage, Burch said.

"The pipe that burst was a Collier County line, so the county is the one out there doing the repairs to the water line and the road itself," Burch said.

County workers started fixing the pipe Sunday afternoon, working into the evening and overnight, Burch said.

"I drove by it on my way to work and they were out there working on it," Hapke said. "So as long as the weather holds and we don't get a great deal of rain, we should be able to get the road opened up (Wednesday) morning."

As far as preventing these kinds of incidents in the future, Collier County has a preventative maintenance program that replaces pipes that are aging — but sometimes they simply have to replace the pipes when they break, Hapke said.

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