Gracing a channel in the Mount Hope Bay between Bristol, Rhode Island and Portsmouth, Rhode Island, the Mount Hope Bridge is a beautiful suspension bridge that was opened on October 24, 1929, replacing ferries that ran between Bristol and Portsmouth. The Mount Hope Bridge carries RI 114 and is a two lane, wire cable suspension bridge with its towers at 285 feet tall, the length of the main span at 1200 feet long and the roadway sitting 135 feet over the water. The total length of the bridge including all spans is 6130 feet. The Mount Hope Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 31, 1976.
In 1920, Rhode Island legislator William Connery of Bristol requested that a committee be set up to investigate the construction of a bridge between Portsmouth and Bristol. The reason behind the request was that delegates from Aquidneck Island were often times late to their meetings in Providence during the winter due to ferries not being able to cross frozen water. It was decided at that point in time that it was not economical to build a bridge, but because of the increased use of automobiles and a need to connect two of the most populated cities in the state, the idea was later brought up again. This time, the legislators came up with an idea to sell the rights to build the bridge to a private entity.
Originally designed and owned by the New Hope Bridge Company, the construction of the Mount Hope Bridge began on December 1, 1927. The New Hope Bridge Company ran into difficulties just four months before it was to open to traffic as serious structural problems were discovered. Experimental heat treated steel for the cables had been used, which caused breaks in the cables and resulted in the span having to be disassembled and reassembled. The total cost of the bridge's construction was $4.2 million. But by 1931, the Mount Hope Bridge Company went bankrupt, and local brewery owner Rudolf F. Haffenreffer, purchased the bridge in receivership. In 1954, the Mount Hope Bridge was purchased by Rhode Island under the name of the Mount Hope Bridge Authority, now known as the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority. The bridge was tolled for many years, with the initial toll rate of 60 cents for crossing one way in 1929. By the time tolls were removed from the bridge in 1998, the toll was 30 cents.
The Mount Hope Bridge is also graceful, having been awarded the 1929 Artistic Bridge Award of the American Institute of Steel Construction as the most beautiful, long-span bridge built that during year. The design towers features a cross braced design with a Gothic arch above the roadway and was painted green, introducing the use of color in bridge design, as bridges were primarily painted black or gray at the time. Today, the Mount Hope Bridge fits in beautifully with its natural surroundings, and you may be able to see recreational boats traveling under or around the bridge. There is also a lighthouse called the Bristol Ferry Lighthouse that is near the Mount Hope Bridge. The lighthouse was constructed in 1855, but was retired once the bridge's lighting made the lighthouse redundant. The Bristol Ferry Lighthouse is near the grounds of Roger Williams University and you can visit it today.
How to Get There:
Sources and Links:
Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority - History
Portsmouth Patch - Travel Back in Time: Mt. Hope Bridge