OCEAN CITY — Some manholes along Coastal Highway have been paved over in recent years contributing to the chronic flooding problems in some areas, while others are raised creating safety issues, but there are solutions in the works on both counts.
Earlier this fall it came to light many of the manholes along Coastal Highway had been paved over during the course of multiple repaving projects over the years. In many cases, the manholes provide much-needed access to the town’s stormwater drainage system and the limited access caused by them being paved over has contributed to the flooding problems in certain areas.
The Mayor and Council on Tuesday met with State Highway Administration (SHA) officials for an update on several projects in and around the resort area and the issue of the paved-over manholes came up again. SHA crews are currently in the midst of an ambitious storm drain clean-out process and SHA District Engineer Jay Meredith said the manhole issues would be resolved in the process.
“We’re going to look at all of those and we’ll fix them on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “We didn’t change the profile of the roadway when we repaved. We took away two inches and put back two inches.”
Meredith explained the manholes were likely paved over little by little over the span of several years each time Coastal Highway was milled and repaved. He said it wasn’t a conscious decision to pave over manholes, but rather a gradual process during which some covered over several years.
“The ones that were paved over, we were doing that 25 years ago,” he said. “You all have a lot of junction boxes and manholes out there in that roadway. We’re going to get away from that practice.”
Meredith said SHA would work with the town to identify which manholes and junction boxes had been paved over and would work piecemeal to uncover them during the course of the larger storm drain cleaning project.
“We’re not going to do all of them,” he said. “There are hundreds of them. We’re going to do them on an as-needed basis.”
While the paved-over manholes are certainly reason for concern, there are some instances where the manholes are left uncovered and actually raised above the roadway, creating a different safety hazard. Councilman Mark Paddack drew from his experience a long-time Ocean City police officer, as he has been wont to do during his first week on the council, to illustrate a potential problem with the raised manholes.
“The locals tend to swerve around them because they know where they are,” he said. “Sometimes that gives the appearance something else is happening.”
Public Works Director Hal Adkins said his staff would work to create a priority list of the manholes that need attention and share that with the SHA crews.
“We will generate a list of the problem ones,” he said. “There is one somewhere between 62nd Street and 63rd Street that you have to swerve to avoid it or it will rattle your teeth. The same thing is true with some on the southbound side. For many others, they are in the middle of the lane and not in the tire tracks.”
Meredith reiterated SHA would address the problems during the ongoing storm drain cleaning project.
“We have a very aggressive storm drain cleaning program underway,” he said. “We’re going to address these with a priority list because there are hundreds of them.”