Thursday, April 20, 2000

Span will become pedestrian walkway

Newport Levee likely to benefit

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Flush with $4 million from the state legislature, Northern Kentucky development officials are moving forward with a long-discussed plan to convert the L&N Bridge into a pedestrian walkway between Newport and Cincinnati.

Jason Wihebrink (left) and Jeff Marcum race across the L&N Bridge toward Newport.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        A former railroad bridge and the second-oldest span over the Ohio River, the 128-year-old structure will be converted into an elevated pathway for walkers, bikers and roller-bladers, said Wally Pagan, president of Southbank Partners, the non-profit group charting Northern Kentucky's riverfront development.

        The project is expected to be completed and open by the summer of 2001.

        The walkway will be designed to bring people to Newport on the Levee, that city's multimillion-dollar riverfront development project being built on both sides of where the L&N Bridge terminates in Kentucky.

        That project already features the Newport Aquarium and will ultimately have an IMAX Theater, shops, restaurants, entertainment, a hotel and an office building.

        “The walkway will have no cars at all on it and it's really critical to the success of the Newport on the Levee project,” Mr. Pagan said Wednesday.

        Last week, the Kentucky General Assembly approved earmarking $4 million for the conversion, making it the largest capital project funded by the legislature in Northern Kentucky this year.

        While Southbank has a general design scheme, the group wasn't sure until last week how much money it would receive from the state.

        The legislature decided to allocate $3 million to the project, but in the final days of the 2000 session last week, House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, a Wilder Democrat who represents Newport, was able to secure another $1 million for the project.

        “It's an excellent project and something that is going to help make the Newport on the Levee project a major development success for this entire region,” Mr. Callahan said.

        Nearly $3 million will be spent repainting the bridge, which will take about a year. Mr. Pagan said he'll have a better idea on the overall time frame of the project once the final planning is completed.

        The bridge's owner, CSX Corp., is in the process of donating the span to the state of Kentucky.

        Cincinnati officials have not made any formal plans because they were waiting to see whether Kentucky received funding, said Angela Zito of the city's Department of Transportation.

        “We're still talking, but our plans will be to somehow connect (Pete Rose Way) with the bridge so people can walk from our riverfront up to the bridge,” Ms. Zito said.

        The bridge runs from Third Street in Newport to Third Street in Cincinnati. There is also a sharply curved ramp that leads from Pete Rose Way to the bridge as it heads toward Kentucky.

        The bridge's roadway, now used by cars and an existing but narrow walkway, will be refurbished and leveled to create a new walkway, Mr. Pagan said.

        Once completed, the walkway could will also host art shows, music festivals and other events, Mr. Pagan said.

        Trains have not used the bridge since 1987, when the tracks were removed because trains were too heavy to run across the aging span. That corridor will remain open and empty, Mr. Pagan said.

        “We'll reserve that space in case any kind of mass transit like a light rail system is built in the area,” he said.

        After the Roebling Suspension Bridge opened between Cincinnati and Covington in 1867, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, seeking a link to markets in the eastern United States, built what became known as the L&N Bridge in 1872.

        The truss-type bridge, engineered by Jacob Linville, had a single set of tracks, a walkway and a road. It was built by Keystone Bridge Co. of Pittsburgh, a company incorporated by industrialist Andrew Carnegie.


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