By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We don’t think much of manholes unless a gas line breaks or a sewer backs up.

Often, they’re placed in the exact spot we’re driving.

And that has Jo from Maple Grove wanting to know: Why are manholes in the middle of the street?

“This applies to almost all municipalities across the world for the matter,” said Jim Westerman, Woodbury’s utility superintendent.

To answer this one, we need to know what’s under the road — where the city has the right of way.

sewer manhole 23 Why Are Manholes In The Middle Of The Street?

(credit: CBS)

The cameras Woodbury uses to monitor its sewer lines gives us a glimpse. There are water lines, utilities, storm water mains and the sanitary sewer line that runs right down the middle of the street.

“There’s equity in putting it in the middle of the street,” Westerman said.

The city owns the sewer line, but the residents are responsible for the connection from their home to the line.

“So we’re splitting the difference essentially between those customers,” he said.

Then they need to consider the equipment necessary to clear out the sewers, which wouldn’t fit on a sidewalk.

“People don’t want this truck in their yard, probably be problematic,” Westerman said.

They try to keep the manholes in the middle because fewer people drive there. But sometimes, you’ll see them on the side. Those are the storm water sewer lines, which obviously need to be separate from the sanitary ones.

“You have to strike a balance with all of the other utilities in the street,” Westerman said. “There’s a lot going on under your feet you don’t think about on daily basis, but you do know when it’s not working.”

The manholes are supposed to be flush with the roads. But, as you know, the Minnesota freeze-thaw cycles isn’t all the kind to the covers and the streets.

Most cities have programs that repair manholes that have risen or sunk.


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