The in basket: Ray Smith e-mails to say, “This question might be a little out of the ordinary, but maybe you can come up with an answer. On Highway 303 in the southbound lane about halfway between Fairgrounds Road and Echo Drive, there is a manhole cover marked ‘US West Communications’. There is always water seeping up around the cover and the roadway in the area is almost always wet.
“Is this a cover to a utilities tunnel of some type that is always flooded with ground water? Is this normal? Will it cause an icing problem in the current cold weather?
The out basket: It’s not so out of the ordinary that I haven’t been asked about it before, back in 2004.
It must have been leaking during our recent prolonged freeze, as thick ice surrounded it. But it was limited to the shoulder when I drove past and would have created a sharp jolt to anyone who hit it, probably not a skid.
Not knowing what utility might be responsible for it now, I asked the state highway’s Olympic Region.
Claudia Bingham-Baker of their public affairs staff replied, “The roadway at the location your reader referenced sits on ground with a high water table. On occasion, water accumulates in the utility vault and seeps onto the roadway. The utility is aware of the issue, but given the high water table, has not come up with any kind of solution.
“Our maintenance crews keep a close eye on weather forecasts. When colder weather comes, they pay particular attention to known problem areas such as this one and treat the road as conditions require.