Friday, August 22, 2003

Purple People Bridge: One way or two?

By Tony Lang
The Cincinnati Enquirer

'Weekend memos' give our editorial writers a chance to express their own opinions, comment on topics they have been writing about, or take a lighter approach. The opinions in 'Memos' do not always follow the Enquirer's editorial positions.
Cincinnati is still playing catch-up to keep the Purple People Bridge from being a one-way bridge to Newport on the Levee.

For more than two years, Kentucky was working on the former L&N bridge to convert it into a pedestrian walkway, yet when it opened in March, Cincinnati still hadn't cleaned up its end. Ever since, dollars have mostly flowed south. Even with Tall Stacks riverboat fest less than two months away, Hamilton County commissioners are still debating whether to throw money toward Tall Stacks or to spruce up Ohio's end of the bridge.

Ohio state Sen. Mark Mallory says people who cross from Newport's tourist-mobbed restaurant-entertainment complex often turn back because the Cincinnati end is so ugly. Mallory hopes to help attract $400,000 in federal beautification funds through a proposed request by Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) by the end of the year.

That's too late for Tall Stacks. Even if funded, it would kick the bridge fix-up deep into 2004 at the earliest. Meanwhile, the Ohio end of the bridge continues to dump people out past Cincinnati's superb riverfront parks onto Pete Rose Way facing an office building. No wonder many puzzled people from Kentucky high-tail it back across the bridge, which ties directly into an Irish pub and the rest of Newport's Levee.

Some Ohio-side officials want to add more planters and benches, which beat a blank, but it's no permanent fix. It would help to at least let visitors know where the Ohio-side attractions are located. Why not steal a trick from the Irish and erect one of those crazy Irish crossroads signs loaded with place names pointing in all directions. List Cincinnati attractions pointing toward the parks, stadiums, The Boathouse and other downtown venues. Anything to let people, purple or otherwise, know they didn't take a wrong turn and dead-end in some office district.

Folks on the Ohio side have been quick to realize they can dodge Newport's parking congestion by parking on the Cincinnati side and taking a pleasant stroll across the Ohio River via the Purple Bridge. Cincinnati hasn't begun to capitalize on the span to lure Newport crowds in the reverse direction.

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