A manhole should not be a pothole

At times it feels like manhole covers are meant to be those road turtles (OK, “raised pavement markers”) designed to wake a drowsy driver.

Street Smarts reader Merl Eaton brought this up.

“As I drive down Cathcart Way and my tires clatter over the numerous manhole covers, I have to wonder why the engineers who design roadways seem to manage to put them right in the vehicle track rather than to the shoulder, where we as motorists do not drive,” writes Eaton, of Snohomish. “Cathcart Way is not the only roadway with this phenomena. On the same note, why is not possible to raise the level of these covers to the level of the surrounding pavement? Each layer of asphalt seems to make the depressions deeper.”

First off, manhole covers should be level with the roadway, and Snohomish County maintenance staff were working to fix the Cathcart Way offenders after hearing of Eaton’s observation.

As for where the manholes are positioned in the road, the answer is hidden beneath the asphalt.

“All utilities must be within the right of way — either the roadway lanes or the county-owned clear space along the road. Sometimes it’s just not feasible to move them — it adds more cost to a project or would end up outside the right of way,” said Bronlea Mishler, a spokesperson for Snohomish County.

“Often during road widening projects, utilities can’t be moved because there are so many of them sharing the same limited space,” such as water, sewer, cable and fiber, stormwater detention vaults and more, she added. “Adding to the complexity are guidelines that prevent certain utilities from being too close to each other — for example, sewer lines must be 10 feet away from water lines.”

If you see a utility cover that dips below the roadway, and it’s a county road, you can contact the county’s road maintenance department at 425-388-7500 or Contact.PWRM@snoco.org. Within city limits, contact the local public works department.

Have a question? Email us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your name and city of residence. Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog.

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