Divider to be installed on Newport Pell Bridge

Renie Daponte doesn't want anyone else to lose a friend like Kenny Prior.

"It's a shame he had to die the way he did," she said.

In 2011, a distracted driver crossed the center line of the Newport Pell Bridge and struck Prior's car head-on, killing him and a woman. Ever since the accident, Daponte and other activists have been demanding a permanent barrier be placed on the bridge.

"They take my money when I cross that bridge. They owe it to me to cross safely," Daponte said.

On Thursday, the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority announced its intention to build a permanent median, possibly by the end of the year.

RITBA began looking into a permanent median on the bridge in 2005. But it's taken until this year to get results back from studies they began nine years ago.

David Darlington, chairman of RITBA, said by March they anticipate a more definitive answer on whether the Pell Bridge can support a concrete median and how much that barrier will cost.

"Safety has always been our top priority. It always has been. It always will be," he said.

In the interim, RITBA will place yellow plastic poles on the center line of the bridge. The delineators can't physically stop a car from crossing the center line, but can potentially wake up sleepy drivers and prevent drivers from drifting. The cost of the poles is about $70,000.

Daponte said it's a good first step. She said she hopes the study supports a permanent structure to prevent more fatal accidents.

"The life you might save might be your family member, might be your friend," Daponte said.