Scenic USA - Rhode Island

Claiborne Pell (Newport) Bridge

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Claiborne Pell (Newport) Bridge - Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Photo by Vaibhav Bhosale
Vaibhav Bhosale Photography

     Stretching across Narragansett Bay, the Claiborne Pell (Newport) Bridge creates a beautiful evening scene, as well as one of Rhode Island's most important transportation links. Bridging many obstacles since the mid 1900s, construction of the East Passage bridge began with at least 32 engineering studies. Suggestions ranged from suspension bridge designs to cantilever and bridge-tunnel combinations. Hoping to skirt the Newport Naval Station, the chosen (southern) route linked Jamestown to Newport.
     Design approvals and funding issues pushed initial construction out to April, 1966, from its initial authorization in 1948. Anchoring two main supports, a record setting 838 steel pilings were driven into the bedrock 162 feet under water. The Avalon Senior, equipped with a 500 ton crane, was called in from New Orleans to set up the huge prefabed form-works in order to pour the massive piers. Another record setter, concrete pours used 90,000 cubic yards of concrete for the piers. Another first in bridge construction, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation designed pre-fab suspension cables, where formerly, cables were spun together on site. DuPont also designed a new plastic protective sheath for the cables, helping to reduce corrosion in the sea-water environment.
     Completed in mid-year, 1969, the Newport Bridge supports 4 lanes of traffic and totals over 11,000 feet in length. Managed by the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, a three minute ride costs four dollars per trip. In 1997, the bridge was renamed in honor of Rhode Island's six-term Senator, Claiborne Pell.

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