Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge

The Claiborne Pell Bridge, commonly known as the Newport Bridge, is a suspension bridge operated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority that spans the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island (northeastern United States). The bridge, part of RI 138, connects the city of Newport on Aquidneck Island and the Town of Jamestown on Conanicut Island, and is named for longtime Rhode Island U.S. senator Claiborne Pell who lived in Newport. The Pell Bridge is in turn connected to the mainland by the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge.

Newport Bridge
Pell Bridge from the Jamestown side, 2009
Coordinates41°30′10.28″N 71°20′21.76″W / 41.5028556°N 71.3393778°W / 41.5028556; -71.3393778
CarriesFour lanes of Route 138
CrossesNarragansett Bay
LocaleBetween Jamestown and Newport, Rhode Island
Official nameClaiborne Pell Newport Bridge
Maintained byRhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority
DesignSuspension bridge with deck truss approaches
Total length11,248 ft (3,428 m)
Width48 ft (15 m)
Height400 ft (120 m)[1]
Longest span1,600 ft (490 m)
Clearance below206 ft (63 m) at mid-span
OpenedJune 28, 1969
Daily traffic27,000
TollCars $6.00 per car both ways (without an E-Z Pass transponder)[2]

Dimensions edit

The main span of the Newport Bridge is 488 metres (1,601 ft), making it the longest suspension bridge in New England. The overall length of the bridge is 3,428 meters (11,247 feet). Its main towers reach 122 meters (400 feet) above the water surface, and the roadway height reaches as high as 66 meters (217 feet).[3] It is four lanes wide, two in each direction. On a clear day, the bridge's towers are visible from the observation plaza at the Gay Head Light in Aquinnah on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard, from the upper floors of skyscrapers in Providence (approximately 22 miles), and as far northwest as the parking lot of Stone Hill Marketplace in Johnston, RI (approximately 23 miles) and Interstate 295 south in Smithfield north of U.S. Route 44. The Providence skyline is likewise visible from the bridge deck.

Tolls edit

The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge is a toll bridge. As of 2022, the toll is US$4.00 for cars with a non-resident EZ-Pass, and US$6.00 for cars without an EZ-Pass. The toll for Rhode Island residents with an EZ-Pass is US$0.83.[4]

From its opening in 1969 until 2009, the toll could be paid by cash or with tokens, which were purchased at the RIBTA office in Jamestown. E-ZPass was introduced as a toll payment in 2008.[5] Shortly thereafter, the tokens were phased out as a form of toll payment. The final day that tokens were accepted on the bridge was December 31, 2009.[6] Following that date, the only accepted forms of payment were cash or E-ZPass.

Rhode Island residents with a Rhode Island E-ZPass pay a discounted toll of only 83 cents once they sign up for the RIR-RI Resident Discount Plan. Early in 2012, the Authority had voted to raise tolls for passenger vehicles to $5. However, on June 15, 2012, this plan was abolished as Rhode Island lawmakers approved tolls to be added to the newly built Sakonnet River Bridge in the future.[7] The bridge also charges a fee equal to the toll for improperly mounted E-ZPass transponders that require a toll-booth operator to manually raise the gate.[8] Out-of-state residents pay full price, even with a Rhode Island E-ZPass, making this bridge the only toll facility in the U.S. to give a residence discount that isn't limited to the adjacent neighborhoods. The bridge was the only toll road in Rhode Island until August 19, 2013, when the Authority began collecting tolls on the new Sakonnet River Bridge.[9] However, toll collection on that bridge ended on June 20, 2014.[10]

Cash tolling was discontinued on the bridge in October 2021 in favor of all-electronic tolling through EZ-Pass or bill-by-mail.[11]

Bicycles and pedestrians are not permitted on this bridge, but Rhode Island Public Transit Authority bus #64 has bike racks for weekday and Saturday travel.[12]

History edit

The bridge was constructed from 1966 to 1969 at a cost of U.S.$54,742,000 by the Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade & Douglas company.[citation needed]

The bridge opened on June 28, 1969, with ceremonies, celebrations, and fanfare.[13]

The bridge was renamed for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell in 1992, though it is still commonly referred to as the Newport Bridge by residents of nearby towns.[14][15]

The bridge was featured on the Rhode Island state quarter in 2001.[16]

The first time that runners were allowed over the bridge was when a group of 300 runners ran over in the early 1980s in a half-marathon for Save The Bay. In the fall of 2011, the inaugural Citizens Bank Newport Pell Bridge Run was held which marked the first time in recent history that runners were allowed to cross the bridge (which was closed to traffic).[17]

Introduction of E-ZPass edit

In the spring of 2012, the Bridge Authority brought Open Road Tolling to the Pell bridge, allowing drivers with E-ZPass to pass through a special E-ZPass only toll lane at 40 mph. Violators are subject to a $10 fine, on top of the unpaid toll. The new lanes opened to traffic on June 22, in time for the America's Cup sailing race being held in Newport. Before the establishment of the E-ZPass system of toll collection, toll discounts were available to the general population through the use of tokens. A roll of 9 bridge crossing tokens could be purchased for $10 (plus one free crossing) bringing the effective price per crossing $1, available to anyone. The establishment of the E-ZPass system and the elimination of tokens also eliminated discounts for non-residents.

50th anniversary edit

In June 2019, a series of events were held to mark the 50th anniversary of the bridge.[18] On June 28, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the lawn of nearby Gurney's Newport Resort & Marina.[13] In attendance were Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Zechariah Chafee, son of the late Governor John Chafee, former Governor Donald Carcieri, Dallas Pell, daughter of late Senator Claiborne Pell, and Rep. David Cicilline.[13] The ceremony included a U.S. Coast Guard flyover salute, a fireboat shooting water into the air, and two ribbon-cuttings.[13] In addition, concerts were scheduled for Fort Adams State Park, along with cruises, fireworks, and other events.[18] A documentary on the construction and history of the bridge, titled The Newport Bridge: A Rhode Island Icon, debuted on Rhode Island PBS on December 4.[19]

Reconstruction of approach and onramps edit

The approach and access road to and from the bridge in Newport was initially intended to be part of a highway connecting to Rhode Island Route 24 in Portsmouth that was never completed. Instead, traffic from the bridge was unloaded at a stoplight on Admiral Kalbfus Highway facing the Newport Grand slot parlor.[20][21] The onramp overpass for eastbound traffic coming off the Pell Bridge was locally dubbed the "Bridge to Nowhere" or "Highway to Nowhere".[21][22] Plans to reconstruct and reconfigure the bridge access roads were made between 2001 and 2020.[20] Ground was broken on the new onramp in July 2021.[21] The new approach, which utilizes a former portion of Halsey Street, was opened in October 2022 for eastbound traffic.[23][24] Traffic on and off the bridge began using the new connector roads in January 2023.[25][26] A segment of JT Connell Highway that was bisected during the construction of the Newport Bridge was reconnected in March 2023, and provides a direct connection between the North End neighborhood and downtown Newport that had previously utilized the bridge ramps.[27] The so-called "Bridge/Highway to Nowhere" overpass was demolished in April 2023.[22][28]

Impact on the region edit

The building of the bridge changed Conanicut Island's lifestyle and economy significantly.[29] Before the bridge, Jamestown was a "summer-resident town" accessible only by ferry on the east passage side and the Jamestown Bridge from the mainland over the west passage, in which one-third of the residents owned summer homes.[29] After the bridge it has become a more wealthy community whose residents now commute to jobs and opportunities in neighboring towns.[29] At the same time, the island's local commerce became more dependent on tourism by visitors from off-island.[29]

Gallery edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Claiborne Pell (Newport) Bridge (RI 138)". Retrieved 2008-04-28.
  2. ^ "Tolls on Newport Pell Bridge increase for those without E-ZPass". WJAR. 1 December 2021. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  3. ^ "Pell Bridge paint job: $78 million",, 2007-08-31, retrieved 2007-08-31
  4. ^ "Tolls | Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority". Retrieved 2 July 2022.
  5. ^ Naylor, Donita. "Newport Pell Bridge will close 'high-speed' toll lanes for 17 days to install upgrades". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Redeem bridge tokens before Dec. 31 | | Jamestown Press". Jamestown Press. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  7. ^ "No increase for Pell Bridge tolls". Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
  8. ^ "Unmounted E-ZPass will cause extra fees". Archived from the original on 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2012-05-01.
  9. ^ "Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Tolls". Retrieved 2013-11-11.
  10. ^ "Tolling on Sakonnet River Bridge Ends on Friday" (PDF). Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. Retrieved 2014-06-20.
  11. ^ Read, Sam (27 October 2021). "Newport Pell Bridge converts to all-electronic tolling". WJAR. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
  12. ^ Bike Rhode Island and Guide to Bicycling in the Ocean State 2005-2006, Rhode Island Department of Transportation
  13. ^ a b c d Gomes, Derek (28 June 2019). "Pell Bridge 50th anniversary a celebration of what the span means to all". The Providence Journal. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  14. ^ "Span clearly has left mark on the region". Jamestown Press. 28 June 2019. p. 2. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  15. ^ Gentile, Isabella. "For locals, it's still the 'Newport Bridge'". Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  16. ^ "Rhode Island State Quarter". United States Mint. US Mint. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Citizens Pell Bridge Run". Citizens Pell Bridge Run. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  18. ^ a b Riel, Tim (27 June 2019). "Anniversary celebration filed with fun, food, fireworks". Jamestown Press. Retrieved 29 June 2019.
  19. ^ "PBS to broadcast film on Newport Pell Bridge". Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  20. ^ a b "Reconstruction of the Newport Pell Bridge Approaches - Rhode Island Department of Transportation". Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  21. ^ a b c Belmore, Ryan (16 July 2021). "Ground broken for Newport Pell Bridge Ramps Phase 2 Project". What's Up Newp. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  22. ^ a b "'Bridge to Nowhere' to be Demolished in 2023 - Newport This Week". Newport This Week -. 18 August 2022. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  23. ^ "A change is coming to the Newport Pell Bridge off ramp. Here's what you need to know". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  24. ^ "Come along for the ride: Daily News tests out new ramp off Newport Pell Bridge". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  25. ^ "After delays, RIDOT plans changes to Pell Bridge ramp traffic flow. What you need to know". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  26. ^ "RIDOT Making Improvements to Ease Congestion at Pell Bridge Ramps - Newport This Week". Newport This Week. 3 January 2023. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  27. ^ "RIDOT announces reconnection of JT Connell Highway sections". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  28. ^ "RIDOT announces road closure to remove Route 138 overpass". Newport Daily News. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  29. ^ a b c d "Pell Bridge greatly changed island life". Jamestown Press. 27 June 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2019.

External links edit