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Manhole covers are the answer to all life's problems

On the 12th and 13th of June, Knife River put an asphalt overlay on Highland Drive, which took all day. On June 14, Knife River was tearing up the newly laid asphalt with jackhammers at the intersection of Highland, Barneburg Road and Keene Way Drive. What gives? It is a real waste of taxpayer dollars.

— James D., Medford

Hold your horses, James. Before jumping to conclusions, you need a few more facts.

Luckily, the experts at Since You Asked headquarters have an abundance of facts at our fingertips. Or, more accurately, we just know the right people to ask.

Anyway, you want to know why Knife River brought in a platoon of jackhammers to dig up some perfectly good asphalt?

Well, James, on any new asphalt overlay, it is common practice to pave over the old manhole covers. Why, you might ask?

"It makes for a much better pavement surface," said Cory Crebbin, Medford's Public Works director.

If crews tried to work around manhole covers during the paving process, the asphalt wouldn't be as nicely compacted. Likewise, it is difficult to gauge how much to raise a manhole before paving.

Instead, workers jackhammer around the manhole cover after the asphalt is laid. Then, the manhole ring is raised so that it is flush with the surface of the asphalt and, voilá, you have a relatively smooth surface.

Actually, some City Council members had a similar complaint recently on Riverside Avenue in front of the new Lithia headquarters. After the paving work appeared to be completed, jackhammers were brought out so the manhole covers could be raised up. Large, temporary, metal plates were installed that made Riverside bumpy again.

But the practice is far from a waste of taxpayer money, according to Crebbin.

He said it would cost more to pave around the manhole covers than to dig them up after the fact.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.