Tuesday, July 17, 2001

Newport paves way for walkway




By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Pedestrians will be using the L&N Bridge to walk between entertainment venues in Newport and Cincinnati by next summer, if a plan outlined by city officials Monday night falls into place.

        Newport city commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday paving the way to assume control, and ultimately ownership, of the 129-year-old historic bridge and convert it to pedestrian-only traffic.

        State Rep. Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, who worked to obtain $4 million from the Kentucky General Assembly for the bridge project, told commissioners that passage of the resolution was necessary to unlock the state funds.

        City Manager Phil Ciafardini said the first step in renovating the state-owned bridge and opening it to the public will be a structural study.

        According to Southbank Partners' project schedule, the city would assume ownership of the bridge in a year or less once a contract with the state is final.

        “The plan is to form a new entity, a regional bridge commission comprised of the city and Southbank Partners, which would then own and maintain the bridge,” Mr. Ciafardini said.

        Southbank Partners president Wally Pagan said the structural study must be completed first, at a cost of about $250,000, to make certain the bridge does not need major repair work.

        “The $4 million (in state funds) can be used to renovate the bridge, or it can be used to demolish it if that is necessary,” he said. “We believe the bridge is in pretty good condition, but we must have the structural study as an insurance policy so the public knows the bridge is safe.”

        A study by the University of Cincinnati, commissioned by Southbank, estimates that 597,000 people would use the pedestrian L&N Bridge in the first year, and that each person would spend an average of $64 shopping in Newport.

        Mr. Callahan said the state originally planned to demolish the bridge “because the state had no use for it. The four-lane Taylor-Southgate Bridge, which replaced the old Central Bridge, was considered by the state as providing adequate traffic flow between Newport and Cincinnati.”

        Mr. Pagan said an initial budget of $6.3 million was proposed, but a revised budget is being considered because there is $4.15 million available now to finance the work.

        “With the prioritized budget, we would hold off on a special sound system and road resurfacing for the time being to complete the project and be able to open the bridge by July of 2002,” he said.

        The bridge, which will have direct access to the planned Newport on the Levee entertainment complex, also would link the Cincinnati riverfront with the Newport Aquarium and a new 3-D IMAX theater along Third Street, as well as restaurants along Riverboat Row.

       



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