Cars damaged by gaping potholes on Route 146; RIDOT plans to award contract next winter

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Commuters on Route 146 traveling through North Smithfield can see the drivers along the sides of the road – and their numbers are growing.

An increasing number of travelers are finding their vehicles rendered inoperable thanks to gaping potholes on the surface of the busy highway, with damages to rims, tires and more.

The road will soon be the focus of a major $150 million reconstruction project, with a bridge built over Sayles Hill Road to relieve congestion, and eight miles of road repaved. Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokesman Charles St. Martin told NRI NOW this week that the project is tentatively slated to begin next winter.

But for many commuters, it seems the work won’t begin soon enough.

The road was called, “a disaster,” by Rep Brian Newberry in 2019, and has deteriorated further since, with particularly poor conditions marking the stretch through North Smithfield. Following the recent winter storm Sen. Mellissa Murray compared driving along the highway to playing a video game where the stakes are sadly real.

“Route 146 going in and out of Woonsocket/N Smithfield is a mine field of large deep potholes,” wrote Murray on Twitter. “Having to dodge them creates a dangerous situation that needs to be fixed ASAP! Driving to/from work/home should not be like playing Mario Cart with an actual risk of crashing.”

Many drivers who find their cars damaged as they attempt to navigate that mine field pull in to North Smithfield Auto Body Collision Center, situated on the northbound side of the highway, according to owner Tom Whalen.

“This has been the worst year so far,” Whalen said. “There’s nothing left to the highway.”

One day last week, Whalen said a large pothole just before the shop caused ten drivers to take refuge in his business’s parking lot. Two more were pulled over just up the hill from the collision shop, and seven more were parked in the lot of a neighboring business, Ptyco Construction. More, he said, were at a nearby insurance business, or on the side of the road.

The business doesn’t sell tires, but it does offer towing, and Whalen said he’s been picking up damaged vehicles from Route 146 daily.

“We get the aftermath,” he said.

State officials, he noted, are aware of the constant parking lot traffic at the business from drivers in distress.

“The Rhode Island State Police already called us and asked if we want a reimbursement because it’s such a nuisance,” Whalen said.

And Whalen’s account is the result of just one of the dozens of craters marking both sides of the road in North Smithfield. The roadway improves dramatically as drivers reach the exit for Route 295 headed south toward Providence, or cross the state border on the northbound side into Massachusetts.

According to Diana Gugliotta, a spokesperson for AAA Northeast, the company’s calls for service due to flat tires always increase in winter months – and could be on track to get worse.

“March is especially bad once the ‘thaw’ opens up cracks and deepens potholes,” Gugliotta said.

As of this week, Gugliotta said 18 percent of AAA Northeast’s road service calls in Rhode Island involved flat tires, up from 14.4 percent in December.

St. Martin said RIDOT has received about a dozen claims so far this year over damages from the stretch of roadway. He notes that design work for the planned rehabilitation is well underway, with more than $2 million spent to date.

A quarterly report shared with NRI NOW show an anticipated completion date of August 2026.

“We will be awarding the contract for the Route 146 project this winter,” St. Martin said. “It is a design-build project, an approach that will expediate the project with design and initial construction activities starting at the same time. We will be working with the contractor to pave sections of the highway along the corridor as quickly as possible.”

More details on the construction and design plans are expected to be released soon, and St. Martin pointed to short-term fixes to improve conditions on the road, noting that RIDOT has been out patching potholes on Route 146 every day this week.

NRI NOW will publish additional information as it becomes available.

Editor’s note: We have updated this article with more information from RIDOT. Also, following publication of the story, two local residents shared the photos published below.

Mike Monigan shared a picture of this massive pothole on the NRI NOW Facebook page.
This picture shared with NRI NOW by Anthony Dichristofero shows a car with two flat tires taken out by the road on Wednesday, Feb. 10.
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8 COMMENTS

  1. We lost two tires after 11:30 pm just a couple weeks back. We had no way to get home. $450/tire and took damage. This was the 2nd time for us. A year ago we lost 1 tire same section of road opposite direction. Waiting another 9 months to 1 year to begin repairs is in acceptable!

  2. These comments are warranted as a response to current conditions but so many conclusions and accusations are not. The upcoming 150 million dollar project is a result of many northern RI leaders calling for action over a few years. To proactively press state leaders, former Town Planner Kravitz and I attended a transportation planning meeting,we pitched new ideas for the Sayles Hill Road intersection on many occasions and constantly tried to arrange leadership meetings in NS at times when attendees from Providence would experience the traffic snarls. Cohorts from neighboring NRI communities also have called for action. And thanks to our federal delegation funding is available. It is going to be done because there clearly is need and because people have indeed pressed leadership to do it.

  3. 50 years ago, Rte. 146 needed to be repaved. Now we are in an election year and hopefully the politicians will finally get it done! Keeping our fingers crossed.

  4. I hit a pot hole last week on tires that I hadn’t even driven 50 miles on and got a flat. It’s such a danger in so many ways.

  5. Tom is 100% correct. Northern RI gets nothing because we elect poor leaders who do not fight for road repair and Northern RI. I have heard for the last several years 146 repairs will begin next year. This is more BS from RIDOT. Even if they do start repairs it will take 10 years to complete. That’s what you get with high cost, no quality unions. Some Ri road repairs take so long some employees retire only ever working on one project. Brian N why don’t you actually do something and get the road paved now and not continually wait several more years. We need to pave the road now and then do the major reconstruction. Get a clue and do something Brian N, Paul Z, John B and Lisa B. You all do a lot of talking but not a lot of doing anything of value.

  6. This should have never been allowed to get this bad. The R.I.D.O.T. has been putting BAND-AIDS on this stretch of road for many years. This is the busiest road in Northern RI and the MOST NEGLECTED . I always said that the border of RI ends at 295 . Anything north of that and we get NOTHING !

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