Published: Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Walking bridge has an unusual attraction
The bridge on the Ohio river will allow the public to climb to the top.
NEWPORT, Ky. (AP) Politicians got a crane-aided boost Tuesday to the top of the Purple People Bridge 150 feet above the Ohio River, about a week before the public will be allowed to journey there on foot.
The grand opening featured a balloon drop and a jet flyover, but it was muted somewhat because rainy conditions have delayed completion and public climbs. Still, the mayors of Cincinnati and some of its Kentucky suburbs got a taste of the attraction expected to generate substantial revenue for the two-state region.
The Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce projects 80,000 annual climbers and $25 million in spin-off money funneled back to the area economies each year.
"This bridge really kind of symbolizes the kind of energy and enthusiasm that is in this community on both sides of the river," Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory said.
Out of use
Just a few years ago, there was a movement to demolish the bridge, a 2,670-foot purple walking bridge that connects downtown Cincinnati with Newport on the Levee, a major northern Kentucky entertainment district. Formerly named the L&N Bridge, it once was a major artery from Kentucky to Ohio for vehicles, but as traffic grew it was deemed too narrow.
A replacement nearby now handles cars, but local officials pushed to keep the bridge for pedestrian uses and search for creative projects to add to it. The bridge climb, modeled after a similar one in Sydney, Australia, is the first such project, and a cable car system could follow.
"This was going to be dropped into the river and demolished," said Wally Pagan, president of Southbank Partners, an economic group in the riverfront suburbs. "So we went to the state of Kentucky and said, 'Let's use that demolition money to our advantage.'"
Climbers will pay $59.50 for the right to walk from end to end on a walkway atop the bridge that features breathtaking views of the river and both states. At the peak, they can ring a bell to signal their conquest.
The entire walk, including training, is expected to take more than two hours.
Cables alongside the handrails attach to each person's climbing suit and make it fall-proof, said Dennis Speigel, an amusement park manager who developed the climb.
"You can't fall if you want to," Speigel said.