'People love water'

The Pell Bridge, named for Claiborne Pell, the longtime U.S. senator and Newport resident.

The Pell Bridge, named for Claiborne Pell, the longtime U.S. senator and Newport resident.

Rhode Island, in and around a bay and in part an archipelago, is known for its bridges, with spectacular views. The state should market them more, for the pleasure of locals and out-of-state visitors alike. Buddy Croft, executive director of the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority, has discussed ways to do just that. As he told the Newport Daily News, the improvements might include paths for pedestrians and bicyclists on the Pell, Jamestown-Verrazzano and Mount Hope bridges. And he forwards the exciting idea of building an enclosed observation deck, accessible by elevator, on top of one of the Pell Bridge’s towers.

There would be a fee to go up, revenue from which could be applied to bridge maintenance. Given the dramatic vistas, I think that the deck would draw many happy people, albeit mostly in the warm weather.

Meanwhile, work continues on the Providence River pedestrian bridge, in the Route 195 relocation area. The span, connecting the city’s East Side and downtown, is now projected to be ready by next August. I predict that it, too, will become a tourist draw, if not in the winter. People love to look over water.

Back in 1982, the late Baltimore developer James Rouse, whose projects included Baltimore’s Harbor Place and the redevelopment of Boston’s Faneuil Hall area, expressed dismay that the downtown part of the Providence River was covered up by “world’s widest bridge’’ – basically a huge parking platform. “People love water. Why have they covered it up here?’’ he was said to have remarked while walking across the platform before climbing College Hill to speak at Brown University.

The platform was torn down, replaced by smaller and very pretty bridges, recalling those in, say, Italy and making the center of the city much more alluring. (I do wish that better materials had been used on the bridges – more stone, less now-flaking concrete.) Rhode Island has extraordinary scenic stretches along its streams and coast. It should take more advantage of them.

To read the Newport Daily News article, please hit this link.