By Brian Yogodzinski
Anticipation of the opening of the newly paved lanes for the southbound traffic of the Alafaya Trail widening project quickly turned to despair because the manhole and valve covers were observed protruding above the newly paved lanes. The protrusion of these covers above the road surface creates an obstacle for all drivers that would like to keep their vehicles in proper alignment.
The County was contacted to report the issue prior to the lanes opening. The response was that these would be feathered in per the Department of Transportation guidelines. The feathering appears to be more like building mountains. Some have used the analogy that the road is like a roller coaster. No matter how one chooses to describe the situation, it is not a smooth ride.
The final layer of asphalt will bring the road surface up the surface of the manhole and valve covers. That will be next year. We will continue to experience the situation until then.
To obtain another viewpoint of how significant the situation is, follow one of the concrete trucks headed back to its place of business at the end of Alafaya Trail. The current situation makes a nice “ca-chunk, ca-chunk” sound as the mechanisms of the concrete truck rattle when the trucks pass over the feathered patches. This is a less than desirable sound that must be able to be heard by residents living close to the road.
The placement of the manhole and valve covers is controlled by features related to piping design. Sometimes the designer can place them in a location that does not impact vehicles, and sometimes not. What can be controlled is the protrusion of these above the road surface.
Given the expected duration of widening project, the covers could have been installed at the same level as the current pavement. Just prior to the final pavement layer these covers could have been raised. It does make more work and costs more, but could have been implemented on this project. It would not be expected for this to be done if there was a short duration between the initial and final layers of pavement. In that case feathering with pavement would have been the best approach. The delays for this project have made this short project a long project. As such it would have been reasonable to expect that this would have been taken into consideration resulting in covers that did not protrude.
Yes, there are theories circulating that the aggressive feathering at the manhole and valve covers is present to reduce vehicle speed. Maybe one day regulations will be established that challenge the designers to attempt to place all access covers only in the medians or exactly in the center of a driving lane.
Brian Yogodzinski is a Mechanical Engineer from North Carolina State University with 25 years of experience, primarily in the power generation business. During that time he became a specialist in the area of Transportation Engineering for the movement of over-dimensional and over-weight components such as power plant generators, combustion turbines, and steam turbines, with typical components ranging from 110,000 pounds to 1,000,000 pounds. He has extensive experience working with state and local authorities to ensure regulation compliances and safe transit of these commodities in the public domain. He currently works for a firm that builds equipment for and constructs power plants.