JAMESTOWN - The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority has begun installing temporary reflective sticks on the Newport Pell Bridge as it awaits a report on whether to put in a permanent median barrier.
The authority said the work began Thursday and is expected to be complete Friday.
"The hope is that it will prevent folks from crossing over the center line and having head on collisions," said Authority Chairman David Darlington.
He also announced several safety improvements last month, including speed cameras, stepped up police patrols and a public awareness campaign about distracted driving.
Local residents and officials have called for a concrete median barrier on the four-lane bridge over Narragansett Bay between Newport and Jamestown to as a stronger means to prevent head-on collisions. 3 people have died in head-on collisions on the bridge within the last three years.
"I think it's a great first step for a temporary median but what we really want is a concrete structure," said Monica Martins, who works at the law firm representing Hugh Prior. His brother Kenny was one of the accident victims.
The Bridge Authority says it's waiting for a study to come
back before deciding if a more permanent barrier will work on the bridge.
"A hard barrier will prevent a car from physically getting
across the center lane, but what that does then is deflect that car back into
the lanes on its side of the road. We also have things to consider like
emergency vehicles... because they would be separated by that barrier as well," said Darlington.
That study is set to be released by the end of February, at which time the Authority will consider making changes to the median.
Drivers are urged to use caution and slow speeds while the installation is taking place.