2014-01-03 / Opinion

It’s Time to Install a Median

Following the tragic Christmas Eve cross-over accident, it’s hard to argue against installing some form of preventive median on the Newport Pell Bridge.

That the accident took place in the midst of what should be one of the year’s most festive and celebratory times is troubling enough. But to have it occur in the middle of the day with no adverse weather conditions is all the more disturbing.

Last year, on the heels of another fatal accident, we learned that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which manages the span, has been seriously considering whether to install a center median for at least the last five years.

It’s about time that something is done.

Driving recently over the bridge from Newport to Jamestown, it was not hard to find motorists who were on their phones or seemingly involved in something other than the task at hand.

And if cell phones weren’t already tempting enough, people today aren’t using them just to talk. They’re also texting, tweeting, and checking their e-mail. Short of a serious cultural shift, it’s likely that the trend is only going to get worse.

That poses a challenge for our public transportation officials.

Though a concrete barrier may not prove feasible in the end for the bridge, there are certainly alternatives or new technologies that could be explored. In fact, it would seem that even a simple rumble strip could help prevent cross-over accidents by alerting distracted, disoriented, or drowsy drivers of their potentially dangerous drifting.

And what of better enforcement of the rules of the road?

Drivers traversing through Jamestown via Route 138 have become conditioned to expect a state trooper or local patrolman to be waiting for speeders as they come off the Jamestown Bridge. But once the E-Z Pass lane is in the rear view mirror, traffic tends to become more sporting as motorists jockey for position heading into town.

How many more accidents do we need to endure before action is taken?

Newport’s City Council last month opted to take more time to consider a resolution that would have urged RITBA to install some form of a median. At the time, it seemed like a reasonable request. Now, it looks rather unfortunate.

Across the bridge and to their credit, Jamestown’s town council has already signed off on an identical resolution. Let’s hope Newport follows suit and that the board of directors at RITBA takes note.

According to statistics provided by the Rhode Island State Police, there were 49 head-on collisions on the Newport Bridge between 1998 and 2011.

Some were minor; others were fatal. All are serious when only minimal safety measures are in place.

Let’s make 2014 the year that we change that. If you believe that it’s time to make the bridge safer, log onto www.thepetitionsite.com/595/959/101/install-a-median-barrier-on-the-newp... now/ to add your name to a growing list of concerned residents, which at last check was approaching 700 signatures. You can also write to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, 1 East Shore Rd., Jamestown, RI 02835.

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