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The missing manhole cover caper might remain unsolved

Who stole the Manhole cover?
Solomons, MD – It was the day after a holiday weekend and the Southern Maryland region’s morning commuters were about to get a jolt. As the skies began to lighten, motorists crossing the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge noticed something was amiss.

“Crews got a call at 7 a.m.,” said Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) spokesman Dave Buck. “We were told it was a pothole.”

What had happened, however, was that one of two manhole covers on the span connecting Calvert and St. Mary’s counties was missing.

Why are there manholes on a bridge? Buck explained that there is a catwalk under the bridge and maintenance crews access the catwalk via the manholes.

The covers weigh between 300 to 400 pounds and state officials have ruled out the possibility that the circular piece of iron simply fell through the coverage area since it would have landed on the catwalk. Buck described that as “physically impossible.” At the point where the manhole is located the span is 90 to 100 feet over the Patuxent River.

Before authorities could ponder the mystery of the missing cover, they had a bigger problem on their hands—a sizable hole in the span was making travel treacherous. Crews had to get busy with the cover-up while the normally congested morning commute was well underway.

“Clearly, an inconvenience was created,” said Buck of the huge backups on both sides of the bridge. The one-lane operation was in effect for almost 10 hours.

Despite the potential danger the void posed, Buck stated SHA officials have received no reports of damaged or disabled vehicles. Before anyone realized the cover was missing, several vehicles had crossed the span in both directions.

“Initially crews felt they could put a steel plate over it,” said Buck. “Instead, we went to a bridge contractor to make a new manhole cover. This one is temporary. In about three to four weeks we will replace the manhole covers with two new ones.

So, was the manhole cover stolen? Buck stated it would have taken at least two very strong people to remove the cover. No one has reported seeing such an incident.

Buck told The BayNet there is no police agency currently investigating the incident. “If something was stolen we would notify the police,” he said. “It would be tough to solve short of somebody coming forward.”

As for the traffic camera SHA has positioned on the bridge, Buck stated the camera has no recording capability. Images are streamed live.

So, if you saw something or did something should you say something? Buck said anyone who knows anything about the fate of the missing manhole cover should call one of the local SHA shops. However, at this point, state officials are not planning to prosecute anyone in connection with the incident.

The number to the SHA Leonardtown Shop is 301-475-8035. The number to the Prince Frederick Shop is 410-535-1748.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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