06/14/2012 04:22 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Water main breaks on Peel Street

City crews are working on another water main break on Peel Street in downtown Montreal.

According to a release from the Ville-Marie borough, Peel Street is closed to traffic between de Maisonneuve Boulevard and Ste-Catherine Street West for an undetermined period of time.

The city says workers had replaced parts of the main this week to fix leaks after it burst on Tuesday, but workers found another problem adjacent to the original break.

Five buildings on Peel Street remain without water. Only the east sidewalk will be open to pedestrians, but the borough says all shops, restaurants and offices will remain accessible.

Northbound motorists are being detoured through Ste-Catherine and Mansfield Streets. Drivers heading south can take de Maisonneuve Boulevard and Stanley Street.

Fourth break in a week

Downtown Montreal has been hit by a series of road collapses triggered by water main breaks in recent days.

On Monday, a 60-centimetre-deep hole appeared on Montreal Canadiens Avenue, in front of the Bell Centre.

Just two days earlier, on Saturday, Sherbrooke Street West between McGill College Avenue and University Street reopened, two weeks after a four-metre-square crater appeared hours after a huge student protest marched over that stretch of road.

Stretch of businesses without water

The owner of the Alexandre Restaurant, one of the eateries with dry taps, was stoic — expressing relief that he was spared trouble on Grand Prix weekend and that the borough has no plans to redo the water main completely and close Peel St. for months.

"We have to live with this, by little piece, being closed for half a day or one day," Alain Creton said. "Otherwise it will have to be for months, and I don't think nobody is prepared to close the street for months."

But next door, a manager at the clothing store Miss Sixty expressed frustration about the repeated road closures.

"Last year we had issues right here, again, right in front of my store," Omer Kalwar said, "and we only had about eight people...walk in all day, so it's really, really bad."

Kalwar would like to see Peel Street's infrastructure problems dealt with once and for all.

Major repairs needed, expert says

A specialist in infrastructure rehabilitation agrees that would be a far better way to proceed.

"The pipe is still leaking, and they're just putting more water in," observed McGill professor emeritus of engineering, Saeed Mirza, as he watched repair crews at the site. "That shouldn't be happening. They should fix the leakage first and then fill the hole and fix it."

Mirza predicted the pipe will continue to leak, and the water main will burst again.

The city of Montreal has budgeted $392-million to improve and rebuild water infrastructure over the next three years, but that's a fraction of what will have to be spent to modernize the ageing system.

"All of the infrastructure in Montreal right now, especially the water system, is over 120 years old," said Mirza, "way past its service life."