Of the nine bridges crossing the Ohio River in the Cincinnati area, only one is purple and just for people.

After a $4 million restoration, the former L&N Railroad Bridge between Newport and Cincinnati became a pedestrian walkway in 2006. Officially named the Newport Southbank Bridge, the “Purple People Bridge” the longest connector of its kind in the country that links two states.

┬áThe “Purple People Bridge” connects Pete Rose Way in Cincinnati to Third Street in Newport.

“Everybody calls it the Purple People Bridge,” says Jack Moreland, president of Newport-based Southbank Partners, a non-profit group promoting economic development in Northern Kentucky’s river cities. “Because of the color, its name has stuck.”

The bridge — it’s 2,670 feet, or just over a half a mile long — has been redesigned to provide an easy way for people to move between the two states. It links the riverfronts of Ohio and Kentucky in a seamless collection of entertainment, dining, nightlife, festivals, parks, attractions and more that brings hundreds of thousands to the river’s edge.

It’s a Vision Officials on Both Sides of the Ohio Have Pursued for Years

The bridge helps connect people who live in Ohio and Kentucky and makes it easy for walker, runners, and bikers to visit attractions, restaurants, and friends on both sides of the river. Nothing else like it exists in this area. It’s what regionalism is all about.

Within a 20-Minute Walk from Either Side of the Bridge You Can:

  • Watch the Reds or Bengals at Great American Ball Park and Paul Brown Stadium.
  • Grab dinner at a range of restaurants, such as the Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati or the German-themed Hofbrauhaus in Newport.
  • Shop for a braclet or necklace at the exclusive as Tiffany & Co. near Fountain Square in Cincinnati or a book or CD at Barnes & Noble at Newport on the Levee.
  • Have a picnic at Cincinnati’s Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove or along the river in one of the Northern Kentucky’s river cities.
  • Catch a concert at the U.S. Bank Arena or a movie at the 20-screen cinema at Newport on the Levee.
  • Tour the Newport Aquarium or the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

The Purple People Bridge marks the first time in Greater Cincinnati’s modern history that a span is dedicated exclusively to pedestrian traffic. It brings two of the Tristate’s most important entities — downtown Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky’s river cities — even closer together.

It’s a very exciting and unique way to cross the river more freely and easily and it helps everybody by bringing people to the entertainment, parks and other attractions and areas on both sides of the river.

The bridge is wide enough to host festivals and other events. Annually about 400,000 people cross the bridge. “Also, the approaches on both sides can host events and private gatherings,” says Jack Moreland.

On the Ohio side, the bridge begins on Pete Rose Way near the entrance to Sawyer Point. In Kentucky, the bridge drops onto Third Street in Newport, just east of Newport on the Levee.

No Other Bridge in the Region is Like It

Developers say they have transformed a rickety structure that hasn’t been used by trains, vehicles, or people since 2001 into a new community icon.

They want the bridge to be used by strolling romantics, energetic skaters, fun-seeking families, and suburbanites wanting to establish ties to the muddy Ohio Rive

The bridge is outfitted with park benches, wrought-iron handrails, gooseneck streetlights, security cameras, call boxes for emergencies, and trashcans.

The Bridge is Open to Walkers, Runners, Bikers, and In-Line Skaters; It’s a Magnet for People

People used to get off work, open a beer, and sit in front of the TV. Now, young professionals and creative people who have been sitting in an office or a cubicle all day want to get out for informal recreational opportunities. The bridge will provide those opportunities while connecting all the dots between the two states when it comes to all the projects and activity taking place along both riverfronts.

The bridge has become a tourism tool that has become part of marketing campaign used by meetNKY/Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While locals certainly know how the river separates two states, out-of-towners could care less. They are just looking for fun places to visit and the bridge will make it easier to do that.

Our research shows that convention groups and leisure visitors don’t really know where the boundary is between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. The bridge has created an environment where people can just take a nice walk across the river and enjoy a lot of the development that has happened in Kentucky. The bridge bodes very well for helping bring people to town.”

Projects such as the bridge could help the city and the region attract young professionals. That’s a big concern for the city, which has seen a “flight” of the young creative class in the last decade.

A Return to the Past

There have been plenty of attempts to link Ohio and Kentucky through some mode of transportation.

Ideas have ranged from water taxis — such as those operating now for Reds games between Newport and Cincinnati – to monorails and trams to individual people movers that Moreland described as “something out of The Jetsons.” Most were too expensive, too difficult, or too far-fetched to pursue.

“That’s why we really were excited about the bridge,” Newport Mayor Jerry “Rex” Peluso says. “It’s an idea that goes back to the very first method of bringing the areas together — bridges over the Ohio River.”

The Kentucky Legislature agreed to spend $4 million in 2000 to restore and paint the span, which was jointly controlled by the state and CSX Railroad.

CSX donated its portion of the bridge to Newport. The city transfered ownership of the updated bridge to a new corporation, the Newport Southbank Bridge Co., which owns and operates the bridge and oversees its maintenance. The company’s board members include members of Southbank and representatives of the city of Newport and other prominent citizens.