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Governor Dan McKee, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman David Cicilline, and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) Acting Administrator of Project Management Lori Fisette today joined with state and local leaders to break ground for the Pell Bridge Ramps Phase 2 project.

In a press release, RIDOT says that the project will “redesign the road network connecting to the Pell Bridge to make travel into Newport easy and safe”.

According to RIDOT, the project includes a new efficient ramp system that will reduce congestion, especially the backup of vehicles on the bridge from the Downtown Newport exit, and improve the connection between Newport’s North End and the downtown area. With a smaller footprint, the new design also will spur economic development as it frees up approximately 25 acres of land.

“This project is a big win on many fronts,” Governor McKee said. “It will solve chronic safety and congestion issues, provide a unique opportunity for economic growth, and serve as an attractive gateway to Newport.”

“The Pell Bridge is the gateway to Aquidneck Island. Whether you are traveling to Newport attractions or the Naval Station, this project will make your trip safer and faster. It will also open about twenty-five acres for economic development,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, who has worked for over a decade to line up federal funding for this effort. Besides funding the $1.5 billion competitive BUILD Grant program, Reed secured a $5 million earmark in the 2005 transportation law (SAFETEA-LU) to help lay the groundwork for state and local planning and the acquisition of rights of way. “It took many years and many hands to bring this project to this stage. The entire community contributed, leading to an improved design that includes bike and pedestrian paths as prominent features.”

“This exciting project will make for smoother, speedier entry to Aquidneck Island and free up land in a prime location for economic development,” said Senator Whitehouse. “My hope is that the construction of new ramps will be just the first step in upgrading the iconic Pell Bridge.”

“This long-awaited overhaul of the Pell Bridge Ramp system will reduce congestion and create economic opportunity in Newport,” said Congressman Jim Langevin. “It’s about time we upgraded these roads, and I’m looking forward to seeing the great work RIDOT will do on this job.”
“We need to bring our roads and bridges into the 21st Century,” Congressman Cicilline said. “The Pell Bridge Ramps project will not only modernize the road and bridge network, making travel easier and safer, it will also create jobs, free land for development, and spur economic growth.”

“Updating and modernizing the Pell Bridge Ramp network has been a topic of discussion for years,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti, Jr. said. “We’ve worked hard to move the project off the drawing board and make it a reality.”

Newport Mayor Jeanne-Marie Napolitano shared with What’s Up Newp the following remarks she had prepared for the event.

Thank you to our Congressional Delegation, the State DOT, and Governor’s Office for being here. 

We’ve waited a long time for this day.  

Personally, I’ve been around long enough to remember when folks first began talking about reconfiguring Newport’s so-called it, I think I may have coined it “Road to Nowhere.” 

That was over 20 years ago. 

Since that time, numerous City Councils, Mayors, and Managers have helped push this project forward little by little. 

It’s because to those efforts – and the great partnerships that we have with our State and Federal delegations and our former State Senator, who also happened to be the Senate President, Teresa Paiva Weed– that we stand here today.   Teresa as a resident of the 1st Ward, friend, and neighbor embarked on the effort of building infrastructure which included, CCRI, a Health Center, and Daycare Center and rebuild Tonomy, our national award- winning  housing  architecture,  now known as Newport Heights.

And while in some ways this may mark the culmination of a decades-long effort, as a City, it’s also just the beginning as we look to revitalize and reconnect Newport’s North End. 

More than anything, that’s what this project is about to me: Reconnecting our neighbors and Revitalizing our Community. 

So, on behalf of the City Council, staff, and residents of Newport, thank you to all of our Local, State and Federal partners that have believed in this community, who are investing in this community, and for getting us this far. 

Newport has reimagined itself many times over its history, and we look forward to what the 21st Century brings.

The $84.9 million project was supported by a $20 million federal grant secured by Senator Jack Reed. An initial $10.9 million phase of the project is underway now to make a number of improvements along JT Connell Highway and Coddington Highway from Admiral Kalbfus Road to West Main Road in Middletown. The main portion of the project is the $74 million phase 2, which encompasses all the improvements at the ramp network. The first phase will be done by the end of this year and the newer second phase will be finished by the end of 2024. 

Highlights of the project include: 

  • Removing the elevated “highway to nowhere” that terminates near the Wayfinder Hotel and former Newport Grand/Newport Jai Alai property. This frees up several parcels for economic development opportunities.
  • Removing and relocating the Downtown Newport exit from the Pell Bridge. This will reduce an estimated 80 percent of rear-end and sideswipe crashes.
  • Building a park and ride lot and bike path to provide a connection to Downtown Newport near the Newport Visitors Center. This would connect to a series of bike lanes being built to the north as part of the Phase 1 project.
  • Removing a sharp curve to Admiral Kalbfus Road which will result in a 65 percent reduction in crashes.
  • Realigning the Farewell Street and America’s Cup Avenue intersection and installing a new signal to improve traffic flow and safety.
  • Converting the rotary at JT Connell Highway and Admiral Kalbfus Road into a modern roundabout, with lower speeds and pedestrian crossings on all approaches. The new design will reduce crashes by nearly two-thirds.
  • Installing a traffic signal and make other improvements at the intersection of Malbone Road and Girard Avenue, including pedestrian crossing features. These changes are expected to reduce up to 75 percent of crashes.

 All construction projects are subject to changes in schedule and scope depending on needs, circumstances, findings, and weather.

The Pell Bridge Ramps Phase 2 Project is made possible by RhodeWorks, RIDOT’s ongoing commitment to repair structurally deficient bridges and bring Rhode Island’s transportation infrastructure into a state of good repair, promote economic development, and create jobs. Learn more at www.ridot.net/RhodeWorks.

Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.