Relative of crash victim relieved Pell Bridge barriers ‘finally happening’

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) – Construction starts Monday on permanent barriers along the Newport Pell Bridge, nearly four years after a head-on crash that killed two people.

“It’s a big relief to see that it’s actually finally happening,” Amanda Meunier said Sunday morning. Her aunt, Kathleen Meunier, and Kathleen’s coworker Kenny Prior were both killed when a teenage driver crossed the center line and struck their car head-on in November of 2011.

Their deaths sparked a campaign to install the median barriers – a project that the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority had been studying since 2005.

Former RITBA Chairman David Darlington said in 2013 that the RITBA had twice applied for federal funding for the project, and twice been denied. But even had the money been approved, the barriers likely wouldn’t have been installed until 2015. Temporary barriers were installed in early 2014.

Monday morning, installation of the permanent barriers begins. All four lanes will be narrowed somewhat to accommodate the concrete barriers, 3,570 of which will be installed along the length of the bridge. Each block stands 32 inches high, weighs 1,500 pounds, and will rest on rubber “feet.”

Construction is expected to last until mid-May. Commercial traffic has been shifted to the outside lanes in each direction, and RITBA is warning drivers to expect delays while the project is underway.

For Amanda Meunier, the construction is the end of a painful chapter that’s she’s been reminded of for almost four years. Her family never placed a memorial on the bridge to mark the spot of the crash, but they never thought they’d have to.

“The barriers serve as a memorial for both Kenny Prior and my aunt,” Meunier said. “Every time you see that, you’re going to think about it.”

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