The next Rhode Island license plate could feature the Newport Bridge, scenes of the coastline, or a wave frieze.
The Rhode Island Division of Motor Vehicles unveiled potential successors to the “wave plate” on Monday, and is encouraging the public to vote on their favorite by March 28th.
More than 900 designs were submitted to the DMV’s license plate contest this winter, and officials winnowed the competition down to just five options.
“They illustrate Rhode Island’s independent spirit, each in a different way,” said Gov. Dan McKee.
Two designs feature the Claiborne Pell Bridge, better known as the Newport Bridge. One has Goat Island Light in the foreground, while another shows a sailboat cruising by.
Two additional designs play on the classic wave design by incorporating a row of smaller waves — one in pale blues, and another in blue and yellow.
A fifth features a more abstract design that resembles the view of Narragansett Bay’s coastline as seen when crossing the bridges or flying over in an airplane.
Once a final winner is selected, new plates should begin appearing on the road on July 1.
The “wave” plate design, which has been in use since 1996, is being phased out for public safety reasons.
Rolling out new plates on a regular basis makes it easy for police to spot cars whose registrations have expired.
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Plus, some of the old wave plates are now so battered that they’re impossible to read, which defeats the purpose of issuing license plates.
But plates also serve as a branding exercise: McKee described them as “a poster for Rhode Island as we travel out of state.”
Only the standard blue wave plate is going away. Electric vehicles will still get the green wave plate.
Drivers who paid extra for other plate designs — like the sailboat or Plum Beach Lighthouse plates — will get to keep theirs.
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Officials did not name the individuals who designed the five plates that were selected as finalists on Monday. DMV spokesman Paul Grimaldi said that the concern was that it would be “a little unfair” to identify all five finalists when only one will make the cut.
However, the creator of the plate that features the Newport Bridge with a sailboat in the foreground was in attendance to see the designs unveiled at the State House. Adam Salomon, of Smithfield, said that he’d gotten a sense that he was in the running when the DMV emailed him a few weeks ago to ask for the original file.
“It felt great,” said Salomon, who majored in graphic design but now primarily works in marketing. “I was surprised to be in the top 20, let alone the top 5.”
Salomon’s design uses the same font that appears on the blue “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island” highway signs that you see when you’re entering the state.
“The wave plate is iconic, and I’m sad to see it go. I wanted something just as iconic, something that really reflected the state’s beauty,” he said. “I was kind of thinking along the lines of ‘Discover Beautiful Rhode Island’ on the welcome signs, and wanted to kind of match that, since it’s something that people are already familiar with.”
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Here’s how to vote for the next Rhode Island license plate
Voting will take place at https://appengine.egov.com/apps/ri/DMV/contestvote. You can vote more than once, but voting will close at 11:59 pm on March 28.