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A (Big) Bump in the Road

It's a state highway that thousands of vehicles use every day - but one that a local businessman says is an accident waiting to happen. That's because heavy truck traffic has shoved the asphalt at one intersection on Route 3 in Coventry into 25-foot-long bump in the middle of the road. The Rhode Island D.O.T. tells Jim Hummel help is on the way, but is it enough?


From a distance Route 3 looks like any other busy highway in Rhode Island - as thousands of cars and trucks use it every day to make their way through the town of Coventry.

Take a closer look and you'll see a raised asphalt divider between the turn lane onto Reservoir Road and the northbound travel lanes.

The 25-foot-long elevation of the road isn't intentional.

Assalone: ``It's been fixed at least a couple of times. And they don't fix it right.''

John Assalone travels this stretch of road daily to get to his business just off Reservoir Road. He describes the buckled asphalt a camel hump.

Assalone: The asphalt keeps getting pushed up when it's warm by the turning of the trucks and school buses.''

Hundreds of trucks turn onto Reservoir Road from Route 3 every day - some going to an asphalt plant, others loaded with logs going to and from a tree service business.  And school buses that go back forth to Coventry High.

Assalone says the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has tried unsuccessfully over and over again to fix the road.

Assalone: ``It was the same people that put down the same asphalt, same year and the next year and the next year and all of the roads are screwed up.''

Hummel: ``A quick fix?''

Assalone: ``Quick fix.''

Hummel: ``How quickly does it bubble up?''

Assalone: ``Almost immediately, the first summer that it's there, as soon as they fix it. If they fix it in the spring time by the summer it starts.''

So Assalone launched a campaign to get it fixed - and fixed correctly.

Assalone: ``I sent a scathing letter to the director asking him what kind of a department is he running that they don't know how to fix something, with all of the engineers and all the money? It was my opinion, not all trucks, overloaded trucks at times, and fix the problem, 'cause there's going to be a serious accident.''

Hummel: ``What did you hear back?''

Assalone: ``The first thing I heard was that if it's overloaded trucks it's not their problem - call the state police. Imagine that kind of an answer - if they know it's from overloaded trucks then I would think they would call the state police.''

Smith: ``This is something that we typically see a lot of times on a downgrade approach to an intersection where heavy trucks use it a lot.''

DOT's Deputy Chief Engineer Robert Smith called the intersection a perfect storm of conditions leading to the so-called camel hump. He acknowledges the problem needs some special attention.

Smith: ``Our maintenance division has done some repairs out there a couple of times, and we'll try to plane off some of the shoved asphalt or make patches but really at this point it need a wholesale dig out, excavate out the asphalt and put down some new asphalt.''

Smith tells The Hummel Report help is on the way. A private contractor has been awarded a $66,420 contract to fix the problem.

Smith: ``What we're going to do is use a higher strength, polymer-added asphalt that might resist the shoving forces a little better than our general roadway asphalt.''

Assalone: ``I believe what would solve that would be a concrete section at that particularly area, with rough concrete, so the trucks aren't sliding, the cars aren't sliding and the asphalt is not sliding. I don't think this is high math - that's what it used to be before.''

Smith: ``We don't use concrete where there's a lot of utilities in the road, where it might be cut up frequently or where the road is narrow and you might need to move traffic around because the concrete takes time to cure. So here here we'd like to try this asphalt with a little more additive for strength as to oppose to the last ditch, which is to go to concrete which requires a lot more moving traffic around while you wait for concrete to set up.''

Assalone: ``If you saw one of those monster trucks loaded up, they're reading to tip over, 'cause they lean to the right lane when they come in now and it's really not their fault. Their allowed to travel with the legal weight, that's fine. It's DOT's fault - totally.''

Hummel: ``This is a state road that probably should be able to handle whatever you throw at it. Is that right?''

Smith: ``That's right. I mean this is kind of a unique situation the way this intersection lays out. You can go down the same road at other intersections you don't see the same kind of rutting and shoving of pavement.''

Smith says the work is scheduled to begin later this month - and be finished by mid-November.

Assalone says he's glad the state is taking a fresh look at the problem - and getting to it before the winter plowing season, but isn't convinced this will be the right fix.

Assalone: ``If you keep doing the same thing with the same results, you're nuts.''

In Coventry, Jim Hummel for The Hummel Report.