2018-11-29 / Opinion

Newporters Care About Practicalities


We were pleased to report last week that Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport, is serving as chair of Pell Bridge jubilee celebration in 2019 to commemorate the bridge’s 50th anniversary.

With his experience in the hospitality industry, namely 29 years with Discover Newport, Smith will certainly know how to throw a party. Plus, as a Jamestown resident, he has personally traversed the span for more than two decades.

While we applaud the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority’s (RITBA) choice for an event chair, we wish their plans for the bridge were more realistic. The amount of money these upgrades will cost seems disproportionate to the needs of other roads in the state. As B.H. commented on Newport This Week’s Facebook page, “…Why are they prioritizing an [sic] non-emergency project, i.e.: [observation] deck, versus repair and upgrade of a major interstate highway viaduct, federally funded or not?”

“The bridge isn’t an amusement park,” J. G.-M. commented on the same Facebook post. “Adding pedestrians to the bridge is a safety hazard.”

The Pell Bridge is important to the citizens of Aquidneck Island. And while we love celebrating landmark anniversaries (see Page 1 for our coverage of Touro Synagogue celebrating its 255th anniversary), most islanders, especially Newporters, are probably more concerned about the bridge ramp realignment plans (visit ritba.org for updates and see the July 19 NTW article “New Approaches for Pell Bridge” for details).

RITBA’s pie-in-the-sky renderings of the “potential [bridge] additions” include a bike path/walkway, glass elevator and observation deck. Meanwhile, in the Nov. 21 NTW article, “Forum Discusses Gateway Center Redevelopment,” the five-firm consortium Newport Project Development Company is implementing a five-step process to redevelop the Gateway Center, which will include a scope-design contest “followed by a more thorough design competition before adopting a final design. The remaining steps would be permitting and eventual construction.”

Here’s a radical idea to pay homage to the bridge’s 50th anniversary: Give “bridge” first billing and change the name of RITBA to the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority, or RIBTA (Most people confuse or transpose the initials anyway).

And while we are discussing golden anniversaries, don’t forget that this Saturday, Dec. 1, Christmas in Newport kicks off its 48th anniversary … Wonder what their plans will be for their 50th.

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