Watchdog: Loose manhole cover creates noisy city intersection

Metal plate planned until permanent fix can be made

  • Public works crews tried wedging this manhole cover in an attempt to keep it from banging, but that wouldn't hold, so they planned to install a new option, a metal plate.
Public works crews tried wedging this manhole cover in an attempt… (Kim Hairston, Baltimore…)
February 12, 2011|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

The problem: A manhole cover in East Baltimore bangs every time cars drive over it.

The back story: City residents endure cacophony as part of their daily routine. The wail of sirens, the clatter of helicopters overhead and the zoom of motorcycles whizzing past are part of the daily chorus in many neighborhoods, including Washington Hill, a few blocks south of Johns Hopkins Hospital in East Baltimore.

But Joseph Thomas called about a particularly noisy element — a manhole cover at Baltimore and Wolfe streets that bangs when hit by vehicles. The O'Donnell Heights resident takes the bus to volunteer at St. Michael's Church every day, so he's at the intersection on a regular basis.

The cover is too small for the hole, he said in his call to Watchdog.

"It makes a big racket. It should have a proper-sized manhole," he said. "It's definitely misfitting."

Those who live and work in the city grow accustomed to noise, but "not that kind of noise," he said.

Watchdog went to the intersection and witnessed the clanks. They were loudest for traffic traveling westbound on Baltimore Street at full speed through green lights.

Baltimore's Department of Public Works is responsible for the manhole, and spokesman Kurt Kocher said he is sympathetic to concerns about the noise.

"You have to put yourself in the shoes — or the bed — of the person who's living there," he said. "Cars are going to be running over that a lot. It's something we need to address.

"Once again, that doesn't mean we can address a permanent fix like we would wish to do, immediately," Kocher said.

DPW officials must balance the need to lower the volume with issues that pose a threat to public safety, he said.

The cover is OK, but the manhole frame needs to be replaced, Kocher said. A long-term fix could take 45 days.

Workers first tried wedging the cover to keep it from banging, according to Kocher. That wouldn't hold, so they planned to install a metal plate.

Baltimore residents suffering sleepless nights and deafening days as a result of loose manhole covers or metal plates should call 311 to report the problem, Kocher said. At other locations, the manhole or plate might belong to a utility, he said.

Who can fix this: James Patrick, Bureau of Water and Wastewater Maintenance, 410-396-7870. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

Need help?

Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing or calling 410-332-6735.

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