Officials: Prep work to blame for Pell Bridge delays

Rendering of upcoming lane restrictions on Newport Pell Bridge

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Work to get the Newport Pell Bridge ready for a major renovation project was to blame for heavy traffic backups Wednesday, according to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority.

RITBA said the “important but disruptive” prep work was to allow for lane crossovers, which will be necessary for traffic pattern changes once crews begin work on the bridge deck.

“We feel bad,” said Eric Offenberg, the director of engineering for the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. “It’s why we started for months to let people know.” Offenberg said the bridge deck is being repaired for the first time since the bridge was built in 1969.

Until May 30, lanes on the bridge will temporarily close during the day and then open back up for rush hour. After Memorial Day, traffic on the bridge will be reduced to one lane in each direction 24/7 until the end of June.

“If you have to be somewhere, give yourself extra time. We’re anticipating 20 minute delays if you’re going over in rush hour.” Offenberg said.

The project will halt during the months of July and August at the peak of beach season and then restart in September. Offenberg said the reason construction started so close to summer is because the concrete pouring requires temperatures above 50 degrees–even at night.

Over-wide and overweight vehicles will be restricted during construction.