The mishap occurred on Julian R. Allsbrook Highway at Buffaloe Street where improvements to the highway are being done.
Roanoke Rapids Fire Department Chief Stacy Coggins said the excavator broke a two-inch plastic gas line.
The immediate area was evacuated within a 100-foot perimeter in all directions.
Entrance to Julian R. Allsbrook in the area affected has been blocked at Tenth Street and Georgia Avenue, including side streets.
Coggins said the fire department has received calls noting the odor from the broken pipeline could be detected throughout the city.
The fire chief said the police department, state Department of Transportation and public works are assisting. “It’s a collaborative effort,” he said. “We’re working together to get this done.”