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The Newport Southbank Bridge, commonly known as the Purple People Bridge due to its unique paint scheme, links the large Ohio city of Cincinnati with Newport, Kentucky, a medium-sized city rapidly becoming the entertainment hub of fast-growing Northern Kentucky. A $4 million restoration of the original railroad bridge over the Ohio River led to its reopening for walking and biking in 2003.
The bridge originally opened in 1872 as the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge, and was the first railroad bridge to connect Cincinnati and Kentucky. In 1896, the bridge was converted to accommodate streetcar, pedestrian and automobile traffic in separate lanes. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad purchased the bridge—not yet painted purple—in 1904, and the bridge was appropriately renamed the L&N Railroad Bridge. CSX (the L&N’s ultimate successor) ceased running trains on the bridge in 1987, and the bridge was closed to automobile traffic in 2001.
The Newport Southbank Bridge, as it was officially named after its reopening in 2003, is now the centerpiece of the Newport on the Levee development in Kentucky. The urban renewal project features a movie theater, bookstore, the Newport Aquarium and a host of restaurants and bars.
On the Cincinnati side, the bridge is an integral component of Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove, both offering a variety of recreational amenities along the riverfront. U.S. Bank Arena and Great American Ball Park—home to MLB’s Cincinnati Reds—are a couple blocks west of the bridge approach along the Ohio River Trail.
Parking for the Purple People Bridge can be found in Cincinnati in several paid lots along Pete Rose Way/US 52 or on-street in downtown Cincinnati, a short distance away. In Newport, park in metered spaces on Riverboat Row under the bridge, in paid lots for Newport on the Levee or on city streets in the Mansion Hill neighborhood.
If you choose to ride the Ohio to Erie Trail route, especially if you are heading southbound, consider taking one short additional ride on the Newport Southbank Bridge. It is also known locally as the Purple People Bridge because of its lavender color and because it is not open to cars. The length of the trail is listed at 1/2 mile in length, so it will not take you very long to complete even an out and back ride on the bridge.
The payoff for riding this short trail is the opportunity to get some great pictures of the Cincinnati skyline and riverfront. In addition, on the other end of the bridge is the Newport Aquarium, a 20 screen AMC movie theater, and many restaurants and bars.
Lots of pedestrians walking across this bridge will slow a cyclist's progress. A must ride for southbound Ohio to Erie Trail riders to complete as part of their journey. Nice views of the Ohio River and the Cincinnati skyline. The few minutes it takes to cross and return are worth the effort.
Best option for crossing and ends right beside the Newport aquarium
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