SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — Crews with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation are working on fixing a large pothole on Route 5 in Smithfield after several vehicles were damaged by it Sunday night.
According to Rhode Island State Police, troopers responded to reports of six vehicles damaged by the pothole, located in the right lane of Route 5 near the Johnston line, around 6:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Dan Rubiano was one of those drivers whose car was damaged by the pothole. He said his truck had to be towed from the scene.
“Just heard a big boom in the cab of the truck…you felt the whole truck vibrating and shaking,” he recalled.
By Monday morning, RIDOT had cleared some of the water out of the pothole and temporarily filled the pothole in. A line of orange traffic cones now warns drivers of the pothole, encouraging them to scoot over to the center line to safely pass it.
Rubiano said there was no indication it was a pothole until he had already driven over it. He said it looked like a puddle because it was filled with water.
“It wasn’t just a little pothole on the side of the road, it was a massive crater,” he said.
The pothole bent one of the rims on his truck and popped one of his tires.
Rubiano said the cost to repair his truck will likely be more than $1,000.
But under state law, reimbursement for pothole damage not in construction zones is capped at $300. The cap has been in place since 1979, according to a spokesperson for the House of Representatives, and lawmakers haven’t introduced any bills to raise that cap in at least two decades.
“I think it should just be on a case by case basis, they should come out and inspect the vehicle and see what type of damage was done. Should be based on the severity of the damage,” Rubiano said.
Despite this incident, claims for damage caused by potholes are down this year. According to RIDOT, 192 claims have been filed since the beginning of 2019, while in the first two months of last year there were 355 claims filed.
Anyone whose vehicle was damaged by the pothole is encouraged to complete a claim form. Those filing for reimbursement must submit the claim within 60 days of the incident.