Newport Bridge or Claiborne Pell Bridge

In 1966, the engineering group behind the New York City Subway and the Cape Cod Canal, the Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas engineering firm started the construction of the Newport Bridge in Rhode Island. The project, which cost a surprising fifty million dollars, took three years to complete. In 1992, the Newport Bridge, spanning over the Narragansett Bay, was renamed in honor of the United States senator Claiborne de Borda Pell. Pell was a democrat and the longest-serving senator from Rhode Island. He is best known for the Pell Grants of 1973, which was initially called the “Basic Education Opportunity Grants”. These grants provided financial aid to American college students.

He was also actively involved in mass transportation projects and domestic legislation for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Pell lived with his wife Nuala O’Donnell, heiress to the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company fortune, in the Pelican Ledge overlooking Bailey’s Beach After his term, along with the renaming of the Newport Bridge to Claiborne Pell Beach, the Pell Center of International Relations and Public Policy was founded at the Salve Regina University of Newport, Rhode Island.

The Claiborne Pell Bridge is built using the suspension bridge design formula. The main load-bearing elements, which, in this case, is the road itself, is suspended on high tension cables. The suspension cables are then secured on either end of the bridge. This was done to avoid having to excavate underwater and to construct columns from the waters of the Narragansett Bay below. Its main span of almost five hundred meters makes it the largest suspension bridge in New England, and the sixty-fourth largest in the world. The length of the bridge comes to about three thousand five hundred meters. Its main towers soar over the Narragansett Bay at a hundred and twenty meters, and the roadway height hits a maximum high of sixty-six meters. The Claiborne Pell Bridge has a total of four vehicular lanes. Bicycles are prohibited on the bridge, and as such, there are no bike tracks.

The bridge was opened on June 28, 1969, and since then, it was operated by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, which was established in 1954 by the Rhode Island General Assembly. The Rhode Island General Assembly also operates and maintains the Mount Hope Bridge. The Claiborne Pell Bridge is the sole toll road in all of Rhode Island. The Turnpike and Bridge Authority has expressed its intentions of installing an automated toll collection system.

The Claiborne Pell Bridge connects the popular tourist summer destination of Newport to Jamestown. Newport is on Aquidneck Island, also called Rhode Island. With a land area of almost a hundred square kilometers, it is the largest island in the Narragansett Bay. The entirety of Jamestown is on Conanicut Island, the second largest island in the Narragansett Bay at almost twenty-five square kilometers in area. Despite having a new name, most Newport locals and historians continue calling the Claiborne Pell bridge by its original name: Newport Bridge.