Chicago streets see shorter closures with manhole risers

manhole riser
manhole riser

Chicago is the nation’s third most populated city, after New York and Los Angeles. And though it has a total of about 9,500 lane-miles, it ranks last of all major U.S. cities in terms of freeway miles per capita. This means Chicago’s paving contractors, such as Bigane Paving, are usually working on congested streets that simply cannot be closed for very long—the city depends on contractor efficiency to keep running. So Bigane is always looking for tools and techniques that keep traffic flowing. Since 2006, they have been using manhole risers from American Highway Products (AHP) that are cost-effective, reduce lane closure duration and even make driving safer for citizens. “Everybody fell in love with them, including the city of Chicago,” said Bigane’s General Superintendent Jim Dillon. “We use them all over the city.”

Bigane’s first use of the AHP Pivoted Turnbuckle manhole risers was on Franklin Street, one of Chicago’s busiest downtown streets. “There were hundreds of manholes, and we estimated 35-40 days’ work if we adjusted them with concrete,” said Dillon, “So we started looking at risers.” At the time, risers were not approved for use in Chicago, but Chicago’s Department of Transportation and Department of Water Management agreed to treat Franklin Street as a test project for the use of manhole risers . . . and as noted above, everyone was impressed.

The manhole riser, which is approved by the Illinois DOT and the Chicago Department of Water Management for use on city manholes, is a simple steel ring that fits into existing manhole rims, providing a new, higher seat for the manhole lid. A screwdriver is used to tighten the Pivoted Turnbuckle, exerting thousands of pounds of force that fit the riser securely, even if the existing rim is out of round. Installation takes about five minutes. Since the risers are available in very fine height and diameter increments, it is easy to exactly match the grade of newly paved surfaces without ripping up and replacing pavement.

“That compares to raising the entire manhole structure, which usually means breaking out and replacing a hole 3½ or 4 ft square and 9 in. deep,” Dillon explained. “And worse, we then have to keep traffic off for three days. With the risers, there’s no delay at all—it’s immediate.”

In Chicago, risers are used mainly in the middle of streets and intersections, and Dillon estimates that his crews install 200-300 annually. That adds up to big time and labor savings and a smoother-running city. Bigane pioneered the use of the Pivoted Turnbuckle manhole risers on Chicago streets. In fact, Dillon added, “The manhole risers have never failed during use.”

Bigane Paving was founded in 1907 by John Bigane and is currently led by a fourth-generation Bigane, President/CEO Anne Bigane Wilson. The company runs two to three milling crews, two to three paving crews, and operates asphalt plants. Virtually all of Bigane’s work is within Chicago’s city limits, and they are experts at dealing with the pressures and unique aspects of this city’s paving needs.

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