NEWPORT/CINCINNATI — The Purple People Bridge – the one-of-a-kind historic landmark that is the only bridge over the Ohio River dedicated exclusively for pedestrian use – turns 150 this year and will celebrate its historic place as a connection between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
“We are thrilled to come together as a region to celebrate the 150th year of this cherished cultural cornerstone,” said Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval. “The Purple People Bridge has connected us to each other and enriched our lives for generations, and we can’t wait to be a part of the exciting history yet to be made.”
The Purple People Bridge connects the communities of Newport, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio together as a safe and well-maintained regional attraction that serves as a historic landmark, people connector, recreational trail, event space, and an iconic community asset that improves economic development and quality of life on both sides of the Ohio River.
From its original days as a railroad bridge, during the years it was used as a mode of transportation for horse-drawn carriages, streetcars and automobiles to its current place as a unique tourist attraction, event venue and recreational trail that is visited by more than 800,000 people a year, the Purple People Bridge stands as a homage to the region’s past and a path to its future.
To celebrate the bridge’s historic milestone, a series of events are planned throughout 2022 that will be announced later this month. The Newport Southbank Bridge Company along with the Cities of Cincinnati and Newport are working together to draw attention to the bridge and its significance to our region.
Now that the bridge is fully opened after some emergency repairs were required last year after some stones fell into the river, visitors are encouraged to come and enjoy this safe and well-maintained regional attraction featured as a USA Top 5 Walking Bridge.
The Purple People Bridge has a fascinating history and unique place in the culture of Greater Cincinnati. For instance, did you know?
- The Bridge opened in 1872 as The Newport Cincinnati Bridge, which was initially owned by the Little Miami Railroad.
- In 1897, the bridge’s piers were widened and bigger trusses were installed. At the same time, a 20-foot-wide horse and cart path was added along with two streetcar tracks.
- In 1904, the bridge was renamed the L&N (Louisville and Nashville) Railroad Bridge.
- In the 1940s, streetcar service over the bridge ceased and the center streetcar track became a pedestrian walkway.
- The bridge closed to rail traffic in 1987 and this portion of the bridge steadily deteriorated during the 1990s. The L&N Bridge and the railroad itself were acquired by CSX – and although still popularly called the L&N – the bridge was officially renamed the CSX Bridge.
- In late 2001, the City of Newport and Southbank Partners received $4 million from the state funds of Kentucky to paint and restore the bridge. CSX donated its portion of the bridge to Southbank Partners, whereas the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet transferred its portion to the City of Newport. The new owners formed a separate non-profit organization, the Newport Southbank Bridge Company and transferred all ownership and management of the bridge to the company.
- The Purple People Bridge is funded solely by event rental or sign rental on the bridge; there are no public funds or tax dollars supporting the operations, maintenance, or improvements of the bridge.
- The Purple People Bridge can be rented for private events, including weddings, dinners, fundraisers, receptions and even charitable runs/walks.
- With over 800,000 people crossing the bridge each year for entertainment, recreation, and commuting to/from work the Purple People Bridge is now offering signage opportunities to be rented by companies, businesses, charitable causes and organizations.
- The Purple People Bridge stretches a half-mile (2,670 feet) across the Ohio River.
- The Purple People Bridge color was inspired by Ted Bushelman, former Director of Communications at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Ted updated his research from his Xavier University master’s thesis on “The Psychology of Color” and presented the findings to the focus group led by Wally Pagen, former Newport Southbank Bridge Company President. The group took the advice and decided to paint the bridge a darker purple.
- The reopening, after the most recent pier repairs, was made possible by $354,000 in generous donations from the Devou Good Foundation, John and Sue Topits Foundation, RC Durr Foundation, Newport Foundation and the Newport Southbank Bridge Company.
While celebrating the past, the Bridge’s operators must also look to maintaining the Bridge for future generations.
As a private non-profit company, the Newport Southbank Bridge Company, which owns and operates the bridge, is funded solely by event rental or sign rental on the bridge. Currently, there are zero public funds or tax dollars supporting the operations, maintenance, or improvements of the bridge.
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