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The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) has announced that they will host a 50th Anniversary celebration for the Newport Pell Bridge.
Construction on the bridge began on April 5, 1966, and it was officially opened to traffic on June 28, 1969. To mark the bridge’s opening, a dedication ceremony was held presided over by Governor Frank Licht. Senator Claiborne Pell and Senator John Chafee (on that day serving in his post as Secretary of the Navy) and numerous other dignitaries were also in attendance.
In recognition of the 50th anniversary on June 28, 2019, RITBA will host a variety of festivities and celebrations throughout the year. Among the celebrations will be a jubilee dinner, a bridge rededication ceremony, a 1969 Antique Car Show/Bridge crossing and historical exhibits. Also, a “Top of the Tower Experience” will be included, where a few lucky winners will be able to ascend to one of the support towers of the bridge and take in the spectacular views. This will be the first time in the bridge’s history this opportunity will be made available to the public. RITBA plans on providing one “Top of the Tower Ticket” to a limited number of Rhode Island charitable organizations for them to use in their fundraising efforts. Further details on this program will be forthcoming.
“The impact the Newport Pell Bridge has on our state cannot be overstated. It has a significant influence on commerce, tourism and our quality of life,” said Stephen C. Waluk, Chairman of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority Board in a press release. “This bridge has become an iconic structure which all Rhode Islanders can take great pride in. Celebrating this milestone will help remind people of the vital importance of the bridge and our efforts to keep this bridge safe and structurally sound for another 50 years.”
In celebration of the anniversary, the 2019 Citizens Bank Pell Bridge Run and the 4 Bridges Bike Ride benefiting Save the Bay will be part of the festivities. RITBA will also work with Rhode Island schools to incorporate the 50th-anniversary celebration into the school curriculum statewide. RITBA will announce additional events as the year unfolds.
No bridge toll dollars or gas tax revenue will be used to fund the celebration costs. Funding for the activities will be raised by private donations and the jubilee dinner. To aid in planning and fundraising, RITBA will establish an official 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee. Evan Smith, President & CEO at Discover Newport will serve as Committee Chairman. “The Newport Pell Bridge is an invaluable asset to our state and particularly to Aquidneck Island. I am honored to be able to be part of this celebration,” said Smith. Other members of the committee will be announced in the coming months.
Evan Smith, President, and CEO of Discover Newport, joined me on The Open Forum on AM 1540 WADK Newport on Monday and announced (broke the news) that the celebration would be taking place and also announced that he would be chairing 50th Anniversary celebration committee.
“The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority is thrilled to be able to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Newport Pell Bridge. Working with the 50th Anniversary Celebration Committee we plan on putting together a number of events and activities which the public can take part to help celebrate this historic occasion,” said Buddy Croft, Executive Director at the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority in the release.