Pell Bridge Environmental Assessment
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About the Project

Project Background

In the 1960’s the Pell Bridge and Interchange were completed, however the Route 138 northbound approach was never completed, which would have connected Newport to Route 24 in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Then between 2001 through 2008, the Rhode Island Office of Statewide Planning identified the Aquidneck Island Travel Corridor as a major travel corridor of statewide significance. Long-range goals were established to the year 2020 including:

  • Protecting the open space and scenic vistas of ocean and agricultural lands by confining mixed-use development to designated growth centers.
  • Providing transportation alternatives and network connections including expanded ferry service, increased bus schedules, improved bicycle and pedestrian circulation, and Park & Rides that provide a safer network for all modes of transportation.

The Project was reactivated with the Aquidneck Island Transportation Study (AITS) in 2009 and then again in 2017 with the City of Newport’s economic plan to create an “Innovation District”.

Traffic volumes on the Aquidneck Island bridges and roadways have increased significantly over the past 40 years. This traffic increase is attributable to many factors, including more households spread among different locations on the Island, increasing levels of automobile ownership, changing commuting patterns, and increased tourism. Safety continues to be a major concern of the Island community. These concerns were elevated following several pedestrian fatalities along Island roadways caused in part by the increasing difficulty in safely crossing major streets.

Purpose and Need

The purpose of the proposed improvements is to:

  • Improve safety for all road users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles
  • Improve safety at the eastern terminus of Route 138
  • Increase connectively to downtown Newport
  • Support the economic development plan developed by the City of Newport
  • Create parcels for development

The Project Needs include:

  • Reduce vehicular congestion and queuing on the Pell Bridge
  • Improve connectivity between Newport’s North End and Downtown areas for all road users
  • Reduce traffic in downtown Newport
  • Provide bicycle and pedestrian facilities
  • Spur economic development to create an “Innovation Hub”

The primary components of RIDOT's proposed project include:

  • Consolidate and remove existing highway infrastructure
  • Provide connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists between Admiral Kalbfus Road and America's Cup Avenue along Newport Secondary corridor
  • Provide transit connection between Pell Bridge Interchange and Gateway Center

Environmental Assessment (EA) Process

Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is in the initial planning stages of an Environmental Assessment (EA) for improvements to the Pell Bridge Approach Ramps. In 2016 RIDOT contracted VHB to conduct the EA of the Pell Bridge Approach Ramps with the goal to be completed by the Winter of 2020, in order to begin final design in the Spring of 2020. The construction of the new interchange and surrounding network is programmed for the Spring of 2021.

During the scoping comment period, RIDOT hosted one public workshop on March 1, 2018 at the Newport City Hall to introduce the EA process, explain the NEPA process, provide the purpose and need of the project, provide information of the existing conditions evaluation, and allow for the public to ask questions and provide written or verbal comments. Details about the scoping period, including meeting materials made available during the scoping meetings are available for review on the Document page.

In July 2018, another public workshop was held to present the alternatives that will be documented in the EA. This allowed the public to review the alternatives and for RIDOT to receive written or verbal public comments. Materials from this public workshop are available on the Document page. In November 2019, RIDOT submitted a public notice request the public to review the Draft EA document and appendices. The public comment period is open between November 20, 2019 through December 23, 2019. A list of locations where the document can be reviewed is available on the Home page.

Key Agency and Stakeholders

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA)
FHWA is the federal agency responsible for this project, although RIDOT is preparing the document. FHWA is responsible for providing guidance, participating in EA review, and completing the NEPA process. The FHWA will assist in making the ultimate decision regarding the final alternative selected for implementation.

Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT)
Rhode Island Department of Transportation manages the operation and maintenance the approaches to the Newport Bridge. RIDOT is managing the preparation of the EA. As the lead agency responsible for preparing the EA for this project, RIDOT is working with the selected contractor to determine the most appropriate alternative for this project.

Cooperating Agencies
RIDOT, as the lead agency, has requested the participation of key entities to serve as cooperating agencies in this EA process. Cooperating agencies for this EA includes Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), City of Newport, and U.S. Environmental Protectional Agency (USEPA).