2014-01-24 / Around Town

Temporary Bridge Barriers A Go

By Tom Shevlin

Amid rising calls to adopt enhanced safety measures on one of the state’s most iconic spans, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has begun to install a temporary median on the Newport Pell Bridge.

The work comes less than two weeks after the Newport City Council voted in favor of a resolution urging RITBA to do exactly that, and one month after a Christmas Eve accident claimed the life of a motorist who had veered into oncoming traffic.

Work to install the barrier, which will be made up of bright yellow “delineators,” is expected to be complete in two weeks.

The hard plastic devices are intended to alert drivers to stay within their lane, and are only meant as a temporary measure until a permanent solution can be approved.

In the meantime, stepped up patrols and new technology are also being pledged as RITBA seeks to cut down on distracted drivers.

In addition to a more robust police presence around the bridge, RITBA also announced plans to install new traffic cameras along the bridge, which will be able to identify drivers who may be texting or whose attention may be otherwise diverted from the task at hand.

The $70,000 project was announced in a press release issued Thursday, Jan. 16.

According to state police, between 1998 and 2011 there were 49 head-on crashes on the bridge of varying degrees of seriousness, or an average of 3.7 accidents per year. There have also been two fatal accidents on the bridge in the past two years.

Studies undertaken by RITBA have shown that there is a need to install a center median in order to prevent the rising number of crossover collisions; however, engineering and cost considerations have made the process slow to move forward.

RITBA plans to vote on a more permanent solution at its board meeting in March.

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