The City of Corning consists of sixty two centerline miles of streets and roadways. Approximately two miles of these centerline miles are classified as NYSDOT arterials, providing for the bulk of traffic moving into and through the city. These arterials are largely maintained by the City of Corning along with the remaining sixty miles of street and roadways. Along the sixty two centerline miles are approximately two thousand two hundred manholes allowing access to the cities storm and sanitary sewer systems. These manhole covers and frames provide the second biggest challenge after pavement deterioration in maintaining city streets.
The city storm and sanitary sewer system average age is seventy plus years old. Most all of the manholes are constructed of laid up brick and are conical in shape. The biggest problem for city maintenance crews is the steady deterioration of the mortar joint that cements the frame and cover to the top row of brick in a structure. Once the mortar begins to break down, the frame and cover settle into the roadway, creating a low spot in the pavement. These low spots create puddles which is detrimental to both the pavement surface as well as the mortar joints, as well as creating an annoying “thumping” noise whenever traffic passes over the frame and cover. This last situation accounts for easily half of all maintenance requests from citizens for pavement repairs.
In the past few years, like all government entities, the city has had to cut back on both manpower and funding for most all items. With such a large number of defective frames and covers to work on at any one point in time, it is virtually impossible to repair all of the known issues during the construction season. Through experience, we have discovered that it was nearly impossible to hire contractors to perform this work due to both cost and our inability to decide exactly which specific issues were to be given priority over any of the other known defective frame and covers.
After many years of never getting all of the defects repaired, we discovered we could prioritize the need to repair a defective frame and cover simply by an inspection to determine the soundness of the manhole directly beneath the frame. If the manhole itself was not compromised and the frame had settled evenly into the mortar joint, it became a low priority. The next problem with our priority system was how to satisfy the publics desire for a smooth ride and a quiet street.
Our solution was waiting for us in the village of Watkins Glen. On an unrelated trip through the village to look at a piece of equipment, we noticed that along the main travel routes through the village, ever so often we were passing over a “soft” feeling manhole cover. Upon meeting with the village street superintendent, we were provided with a contact to secure Tophats” for our use in Corning.
Once were able to place our order for the “Tophats” with David Abbott of Abart Industries, we were well on our way to reducing the number of ride and noise complaints from citizens relative to defective mortar joints between frames and manhole structures. We placed an order for “Tophats” that solved the majority of the complaints based on a standard manhole diameter and the average depth of settlement of the cover to the road surface. Abart Industries provided detailed instructions on mounting a “Tophat” to a manhole cover as well as all required hardware and drill bits.
We in the City of Corning have been using (and re-using) “Tophats” throughout the city for four plus years at this point in time. We have had a very positive response from the general public in regards to both ride quality and noise reduction while they wait for us to effect a permanent repair to the offending frame and cover. I don’t know that we will ever see the day when we no longer have to prioritize this particular type of a repair or that we will have all known repairs accomplished in a construction season, but our use of “Tophats” has definitely allowed us the ability to prioritize the order in which repairs are made. Another advantage of the “Tophat” temporary repair is the simple fact that we no longer forget about the stable frame that has settled due to the fact that we now have a visual reminder that a particular frame and cover still needs to be repaired. I almost hate to admit this, but we have frames on high traffic streets and roadways that are stable and have had “Tophats” on them for as long as three years with no problems. We have been able to run snowplow blades over them through the winters, and we have only ever torn one “Tophat” off in four years. While I don’t intend to use these as a permanent type of repair, “Tophats” have definitely proved their longevity and durability many times over in our experiences and we whole heartedly endorse them whenever we are ever asked about the product. In the last two days we have provided another local municipality with the contact information to purchase this product for their own use