NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — It was an event 50 years in the making.
There were plenty of stories to tell among the construction workers who build the Newport Pell Bridge – everything from overcoming a fear of heights to close calls.
“I got about halfway up there and I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ But I told myself, ‘Get your rear end up there, you’ve got two kids to feed,'” bridge engineer Matthew Howland recalled.
Construction on the bridge began in April of 1966, with the bridge officially opening to traffic on June 28, 1969.
In recognition of the bridge’s 50th anniversary, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RIBTA) threw a party to honor those that built it.
“It’s an opportunity for us to say thank you for building this beautiful bridge, it’s also an opportunity for them to get together and share stories about what happened,” Discover Newport President Evan Smith said.
“It’s an iconic structure. We’ve had 345 million vehicles cross that bridge and it’s all due to the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears of the men and women that built it that are here today,” RITBA Director Buddy Croft added.
The celebration also recognized how important the bridge is to the community.
“The bridge changed Rhode Island forever when it opened, it’s really been the connection and the gateway,” Smith said.
The year-long celebration will continue with the “Pell Bridge Run” in September.