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Report details what went wrong in Portsmouth road collapse

Target 12

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WPRI) – After heavy rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida destroyed several roads in Portsmouth, Target 12 obtained the town’s report looking into what went wrong and what’s being done to prevent it happening again.

Footage of the road’s destruction drew national media attention after Ida – which by then had been downgraded to a tropical storm – hit Rhode Island in early September. Portsmouth is still working to return Fairview Lane and several connecting roads to their previous state.

Brian Woodhead, the director of public works in Portsmouth, told Target 12 he led a 10-day investigation examining the neighborhood’s drainage systems.

“There was so much volume of water coming through the inlet pipe that it eroded the blocks,” Woodhead said. “The blocks fell into the catch basin and clogged up the outlet pipe.” 

The report detailed how the more than eight inches of rainwater that fell in a matter of hours “eventually undermined the Fairview Lane and adjacent roadways.” It concluded the underground catch basins became “compromised” and collapsed, blocking the drainage pipes that ran underneath the roadway.

That prevented the storm water from making its way down the hill to the Sakonnet River. The photo below, provided by Woodhead, shows the collapse of one of the basins.

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But Woodhead said there is good news: the town was able to identify the problems immediately and repair them, this time with more modern equipment.

“It’s been installed with a precast catch basin, so that won’t happen again,” Woodhead said, though he did note that the previous drainage system was installed properly in the 1970s.

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Woodhead told Target 12 the next steps in repairing the roads will take place on Oct. 12 and 13.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

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