Reconstruction of the Newport Pell Bridge Approaches. Photo Credit: RIDOT

STATE HOUSE – While major temporary changes to the traffic pattern around the Pell Newport Bridge began last week, creating a traffic nightmare for the residents of Aquidneck Island, Rep. Lauren H. Carson is demanding that Department of Transportation officials do a better job communicating to the public about the day-to-day changes to the traffic patterns.

“DOT did a lot of great work engaging with the community when this project was announced,” said Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport). “But since it started, they’ve done a terrible job keeping people informed. The new ramps that have been installed have caused widespread confusion, damage to local property that was already prone to flooding, and has made driving over the bridge a nightmare just before Christmas.”

The project is intended to reduce congestion and backup on the Pell Bridge, which serves as the main point of entry to Aquidneck Island, bringing drivers on Route 138 across Narragansett Bay from Jamestown into the city. It is also intended to reduce traffic downtown; improve bicycle, pedestrian and public transit opportunities; better connect downtown to the North End for all road users; and spur economic development by creating an “Innovation Hub.”

“The reconstruction of the bridge approaches is the biggest public works project in Newport in a half-century, profoundly changing the way people get to and from our city as well as how we get around it,” said Representative Carson. And while I am grateful to DOT to listening to people during the planning stages of this project, communication shouldn’t shut down once the project begins.”

Among her demands of the DOT, Representative Carson said she wants to see:

Consistent, ongoing communication as the project progresses, including detailed explanations to Aquidneck Island of how the new ramps work

An in-person meeting between DOT officials and islanders in February detailing exactly what residents can expect in 2023

“I understand that it’s not DOT’s policy to write daily press releases about their projects, but this isn’t some bridge over a brook in a rural area,” said Representative Carson. “This is the longest suspension bridge in New England and an important artery that supplies 70,000 people with transportation, food and tourism. Communication is absolutely essential.”

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