Purple People Bridge Painting Work Continues

MONDAY, MAY 8, 2023

Following crews painting the Newport, Kentucky side of the Purple People Bridge, work is now set to begin on the Cincinnati side of the structure as fundraising continues.

“The Purple People Bridge Company continues to work with the cities of Newport and Cincinnati, individual donors, corporate supporters and philanthropic foundations to raise money to preserve, maintain and share this iconic structure that both literally and figuratively brings our community together,” said Purple People Bridge Company President Will Weber.

The 2,670-foot pedestrian bridge is reportedly the longest connector of its kind in the country that links two states, Ohio and Kentucky. On average, over 800,000 people cross the bridge each year.

Bridge Background

Originally named the Newport Cincinnati Bridge, the Newport Southbank Bridge opened in 1872. It was the first railroad bridge spanning the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and was originally owned by the Little Miami Railroad.

The bridge’s piers were widened and the trusses were replaced in 1897, with a 20-foot-wide horse and cart path added along with two streetcar tracks. The original truss spans were also replaced by the Pennsylvania Pratt trusses, which can still be seen today.

In 1904, the bridge was renamed the L&N Railroad Bridge, and shortly after was improved and repaved to accommodate automobiles. In the 1940s, the center streetcar track became a pedestrian walkway as streetcar service over the bridge ended.

Rail traffic closed in 1987, and the bridge was then again renamed to the CSX Bridge after the railroad and bridge were acquired by CSX. However, after removing the tracks and dismantling the rail approach viaducts, CSX stopped painting the railroad half of the bridge.

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which had reportedly acquired the automobile portion of the bridge, continued to paint its side of the bridge blue. This resulted in a blue and rust covered bridge in the early 1990s, with expensive lead removal preventing easy or inexpensive repainting of the trusses.

The bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in April 2001. At the time, it was also permanently closed to automobiles.

Later that same year, the City of Newport and Southbank partners reportedly received $4 million in state funds to paint and restore the bridge. Ownership was also transferred to the nonprofit Newport Southbank Bridge Company, which currently owns and operates the bridge and oversees its maintenance.

As for the color choice for the restoration, more than a dozen groups were reportedly shown computer-generated images of how the bridge would look painted a variety of colors, including dark purple, green, rust, orange and white. According to the bridge’s website, in every group, purple and green were the top choices.

In April of last year, the Newport Southbank Bridge Company announced that it hoped to repaint the Purple People Bridge for its 150th anniversary and restore its iconic purple color. The bridge was last painted 20 years ago, with the initial purple color reportedly dulling to a gray.

The mayors of Newport and Cincinnati said that it’s important to keep this bridge open, safe and functional for many years to come. In 2021, the bridge was closed for six months after a stone fell from one of the piers, with costly repairs.

The estimated cost to repaint the bridge is $1.5 million. Because the company is a nonprofit, several events were planned throughout the year to celebrate the bridge’s anniversary and raise money to help cover these costs. Additionally, the bridge is open to renting for private events.

Then, in August, crews began the first phase of the painting project, working on the entryway on the Newport side of the bridge. Baynum Painting of Newport was contracted for the project. The company has completed projects internationally and has completed work for amusement park rides, water parks and other construction/new build projects.

Baynum had previously provided various paint swatches on the entry to test the shades of purple over time, alongside the type of paint products. The shade of purple that will be used for the repainting will reportedly be unveiled as part of the project promotion, with a special name.

Cincinnati Side Work

According to reports, the next phase of the painting project will arrive in time to celebrate the annual “513” Day on May 13, in honor of Cincinnati’s area code. Crews will be on the bridge for the coming weeks to paint a small portion of the bridge, focusing on the entryway arch on the Cincinnati side of the bridge.

The shade of purple that will be used for the repainting was selected by community input during the six-year paint swatch test phase on the Newport entryway arch.

The Purple People Bridge Company reports that the project would not be possible without Baynum Solutions, Duke Energy and the public that supported the 150th anniversary events last year.

“We are in the midst of an 18-month marketing campaign to remind the public the importance of this historic connector in our region and the vibrant public art canvas it provided our region when it was painted for the first time 20 years ago,” Weber said.

The company continues to raise the necessary $1.5 million to repaint the entire bridge. Additionally, funds will reportedly support other enhancement projects such as a new welcome sign to the Purple People Bridge from Pete Rose Way, new spring landscaping, and limited surface-level maintenance.

The Purple People Bridge Company says they are still $8,500 short of their goal.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Bridges; Coating Application; Color; Color + Design; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance coating work; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Paint; Program/Project Management; Rehabilitation/Repair

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