NORTH KINGSTOWN – After decades of flooding and icing at the site, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is planning drainage improvements at the intersection of Post Road and Essex Road.
RIDOT was urged to take up the flooding issue by members of the North Kingstown House and Senate delegations, including Sen. James Sheehan and Reps. Julie Casimiro and Robert Craven, along with town manager Ralph Mollis and others.
“This has been going on for decades,” Casimiro said on Monday. “My constituents call me constantly when it rains, and it’s even worse in the winter time. When that water freezes it becomes really treacherous and hazardous conditions.”
“Rep. Craven, Sen. Sheehan and I have been working with the department of transportation on a number of issues,” she continued. “Most recently, I had them down here because we felt like North Kingstown wasn’t getting any attention whatsoever.”
For more than 40 years, the intersection has seen continued flooding and icing.
Mollis explained that the area became a site of flooding “due to the fact that the runoff has nowhere to go.”
“There isn’t a drainage system and, over the years as properties along the road became developed, runoff increased without any mitigation, which caused it to collect at the low point in the road,” Mollis said.
Casimiro said that the flooding at the intersection was “incredibly dangerous.”
After years of requests from the delegation, town officials and residents, RIDOT is taking up the flooding issue at the intersection, with plans to redirect the overflow of stormwater to a drainage ditch.
Casimiro and Craven explained that the state planned to purchase a piece of land off Post Road, which would serve as the location for the drainage ditch.
“The state is going to purchase that land and they’re going to use it to help the drainage ditch,” Casimiro said.
While the communications director for RIDOT, Liz Pettengill, said that the sale had not officially gone through, she added that the project includes acquisition of the property. Pettengill also said the project was expected to be completed sometime in 2021.
The project is also still in the planning stage, Pettengill said, with RIDOT working on the design.
“We’ll put in safety improvements and drainage improvements,” Pettengill said. “But there are no details because it’s still in design.”
Casimiro went on to say that it was important for residents in the north end of town to know that the drainage improvements were in motion.
“I’ll tell you right now, the sale of the property has just started,” Casimiro said. “We’re not going to see any immediate action, but it’s important the people–especially the people in the north end–realize that, after decades of this problem, we got something done on it.”
Though all three were grateful that the work was finally beginning, Casimiro, Craven and Sheehan agreed that the process up until this point had been very frustrating.
“I think all three of us felt a lack of attention from DOT,” Casimiro said. “So much so that I actually said to them, you’re doing nothing for North Kingstown.”
“We’ve been keeping the pressure on them and not letting them get away with any inactivity,” she added.
Sheehan compared RIDOT to a large elephant, and everyone else a mouse.
“Sometimes I equate the DOT to a large elephant and everyone else is a mouse in comparison,” he said. “You have to really bite hard on one of its toes to get their attention.”
“Collectively, we were putting the full court press on them, and meeting with them in person and putting the pressure on them,” he continued.
However, Sheehan said he was happy to see the process moving forward on an issue that predated his tenure in the senate, which began in 2000.
“This predates my tenure of 20 years,” he said. “It’s been an ongoing hazard on this road.”
Sheehan, who announced last week that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection, called the planned drainage improvements a “capstone” for his time as a state senator.
“To get it done finally feels good,” he said. “It’s a nice capstone for me too, at the end of my tenure, to have something like this completed. It’s a win for the community and safety on this road.”
Casimiro said the drainage installation was a “real accomplishment for this team,” adding that a constituent who lives on Forest Park Road had been complaining about the issue for 40 years.
“I think it’s good, especially for the people in this area,” Casimiro said. “This team finally got it done.”
Mollis also said that this was an issue discussed with RIDOT for years.
“This has been a dangerous situation and has been a priority and a topic of discussion of ours for years now,” he said. “We are very pleased that it is being addressed as a DOT priority.”