Pell Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island, Undergoes Update

Revised ramp configuration will manage traffic flow and increase accessibility

August 24, 2021

Pell Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island, Undergoes Update

The Pell Bridge in Newport, Rhode Island, connects the City of Newport on Aquidneck Island and the Town of Jamestown on Conanicut Island. The bridge and the associated interchange were built in the 1960s, however plans to extend the highway towards the north were cancelled, leaving an incomplete interchange and excess infrastructure. Recognizing in the mid-2000s the poor connectivity between Newport and the bridge, as well as the travel significance of the Aquidneck Island Travel Corridor, the Rhode Island Office of Statewide Planning (RIOSP), and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) advanced the study and design to improve the safety and connectivity around the Pell Bridge.

The RIDOT partnered with VHB as the lead designer on the design-bid-build project to redesign the interchange. The project will consolidate existing infrastructure, increase multi-modal mobility, and provide shared ride opportunities around the Pell Bridge Interchange. The design included ramp and roadway realignment, wetland replication, stream and floodplain restoration, bridge preservation, park and ride and dog park layout, and variable and contra-flow lanes. In addition to design, VHB worked with RIDOT preparing NEPA assessments, wetlands delineations, GIS mapping, FEMA floodplain mapping, and the evaluation of traffic and alternatives assessment through public involvement.

VHB and RIDOT supported the City of Newport on their goals to increase connectivity from the bridge to downtown, decrease traffic and congestion, and increase the community’s access to pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Increased traffic volumes, changes to home occupancy, shifts to commuting patterns, and tourism have all led to safety concerns for the community. Key initiatives of the project will increase connectivity and safety for users between Newport’s North End and the downtown districts, while opening land for economic development and open space.

Adaptive traffic signals are being incorporated along the revised Pell Bridge ramp system. These “smart” signals will combine traditional traffic signals with sensors and the use of artificial intelligence to thoughtfully route vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic. The signals will adjust automatically for changes in weather, and commuter and tourism traffic. A movable barrier system is also included to allow for easy reconfiguration of travel lanes in real time to meet planned or emergency events.

Project construction is underway now and has an estimated completion date for 2024. To learn more about the Pell Bridge project or VHB, contact Rick Rhodes.