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.

Former President Trump will take the center stage to wrap up the Republican National Convention tonight. The week has been unlike any other in Convention history as it started right after the assassination attempt of Trump. It included the naming of JD Vance of Ohio as his running mate and a massive security presence throughout the Milwaukee area.        President Biden's political future is in doubt as he faces growing calls to drop out of the presidential election. NBC News reports a person close to Biden said "we're close to the end." The "Washington Post" says former President Obama told his allies Biden needs to consider the viability of his candidacy. Biden is currently isolated with COVID-19 in Delaware.       Comic legend Bob Newhart has died at the age of 94. His publicist says he passed away in Los Angeles after a series of short illnesses. His TV series "The Bob Newhart Show" was a hit in the 1970s and he had another ratings winner with "Newhart" in the 1980s.       Three people are dead after severe storms hit the Midwest and East Coast. One person died in New York around 25 miles east of Syracuse. The two others were killed in Illinois after a flood carried their car away yesterday.        A public visitation for the man killed at former President Trump's rally last weekend is being held today. Former Buffalo Township Volunteer Fire Company chief Corey Comperatore died Saturday while shielding his family from the bullets of the would-be assassin. A private funeral service will be held tomorrow.       Major League Baseball's schedule for next season is out now. Shohei [[ show-hey ]] Ohtani and the Los Angles Dodgers will take on the Chicago Cubs in Tokyo March 18th and 19th to start the season. March 27th will be MLB's traditional Opening Day, marking the earliest Opening Day in league history.