Ramp redo: RI breaks ground on new Newport Pell Bridge improvements

East Bay

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The roadways leading both on and off the Newport Pell Bridge will soon be redesigned and revamped as part of an ongoing project to ease traffic and make them safer.

Talks of a revamp have been ongoing for years between state leaders and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT). State leaders and lawmakers gathered Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony.

“These days, all roads lead to Newport,” Gov. Dan McKee said, noting that the city is mounting more events this summer as the pandemic is starting to recede. In a typical summer, more than 40,000 vehicles go over the bridge daily.

The Downtown Newport exit ramp will be removed as part of the long-awaited overhaul. The exit is notorious for traffic backups.

Lori Fisette, acting administrator of project management for RIDOT, said removing the exit “will eliminate 80% of the rear-end and side-swipe crashes that occur” in the area.

Other planned changes include nixing a sharp curve on Admiral Kalbfus Road and modernizing the rotary at J.T. Connell Highway and Admiral Kalbfus Road by reducing the speed limit and adding pedestrian crossings.

The ramp revitalization is actually the second phase of the overall project an is expected to be completed by 2024. The first phase, which includes renovations on surface roads like J.T. Connell and Coddington highways, is expected to be finished before the end of this year.

Sen. Jack Reed helped secure a $20 million federal grant for the project. The total cost is estimated at $84.9 million.

Reed noted the project includes bike and pedestrian paths as prominent features.

“It is also going to be freeing up 25 acres of land, which is going to be developed for economic progress, which will help the city,” Reed said.

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