The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is reminding motorists that tomorrow night, Friday, December 8, it will permanently close the old Downtown Newport exit on Route 138 East coming into Aquidneck Island from the Pell Bridge. With its closure, all traffic will use the new ramp system to access Downtown Newport.
The new alignment replaces the exit with an intersection one-quarter of a mile after the old exit. Drivers should stay left after the old off-ramp and use one of the two lanes for turning left at the new JT Connell Connector Road, then left again onto JT Connell Highway toward Farewell Street and Downtown.
The JT Connell Connector Road opened last year and drivers can use this today as an alternate route to Downtown. RIDOT recommends travelers use the new road to become familiar with it before the old exit closes.
The new ramp system was designed to improve safety and reduce congestion, especially the backup of vehicles on the bridge from the Downtown Newport exit. RIDOT estimates the change will reduce rear-end and sideswipe crashes by 80 percent and reduce vehicle emissions.
In addition to the new ramp system’s benefits to safety and efficiency, the $74 million Pell Bridge Ramps Phase 2 project will improve the connection between Newport's North End and the Downtown area for all users. The project includes a shared-use bike path and new commuter parking lot, both expected to open next year.
With a smaller footprint, the new design also will spur economic development as it frees up approximately 25 acres of land. It will be finished by the end of 2024.
Additional information about the project and the latest traffic pattern changes will be posted at www.ridot.net/PellBridgeRamps. The web page also has a form anyone can use to sign-up to have regular project updates emailed directly to them.
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, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act. RIDOT is committed to bringing Rhode Island's infrastructure into a state of good repair while respecting the environment and striving to improve it. Learn more at www.ridot.net/RhodeWorks.