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In the 1960s 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:
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.
The project is divided into two phases:
Bridge rehabilitation and median work will continue along the center median behind barrier along Route 138 and may require temporary lane shifts along Third Street and JT Connell Highway. Grading and drainage work will continue along Halsey Street and America’s Cup. Utility work will also occur at times along JT Connell and Admiral Kalbfus. Shared use path construction will also continue along the Newport Secondary Rail Line.
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