There is a beautiful suspension bridge across Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport, Rhode Island, along Route 138. The 11,248-foot bridge is the longest suspension bridge in New England and the 87th-longest in the world.

I hear that on a clear day, the 400-foot-tall bridge towers are visible on Martha's Vineyard.

The bridge is the Claiborne Pell Bridge, unless you are a traditionalist and still refer to it as the Newport Bridge. Some call it the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.

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Construction of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge began in 1966. The bridge opened on June 28, 1969. It cost $54 million.

A Rhode Island Debate: Claiborne Pell Bridge Or Newport Bridge?
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For 23 years, the bridge was known simply as the Newport Bridge, but in 1992 the span was renamed the Claiborne Pell Bridge, much to the dismay of some residents who were displeased by the name change.

Claiborne Pell was a storied member of the U.S. Senate who served six terms from 1961 to 1997, Rhode Island's longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Pell served as the distinguished Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His 1972 legislation established the Basic Education Opportunity Grant (Pell Grant), which provides financial assistance to American college students.

A Rhode Island Debate: Claiborne Pell Bridge Or Newport Bridge?
Courtesy Aerial New England

Pell, born November 22, 1918, in New York City, was a graduate of Princeton. At the start of World War ll, Pell was a truck driver in Germany delivering emergency supplies to prisoners of war and was detained several times by the Nazis.

Pell enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and was involved in the Allied invasion of Sicily.

After the war, Pell was a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department in Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Washington, D.C. Pell's father served as the United States ambassador to Portugal and Hungary.

A Rhode Island Debate: Claiborne Pell Bridge Or Newport Bridge?
Courtesy Aerial New England

Pell and Nuala O'Donnell were married in 1944. The couple had four children.

Senator Claiborne Pell died on January 1, 2009.

Some traditionalists still refer to the bridge as the Newport Bridge, while others call it the Claiborne Pell Bridge. The Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge seems to be a nice compromise.

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