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Purple People Bridge To Reopen... Partially

Bill Rinehart
The Purple People Bridge opened in 1872 as a railroad bridge over the Ohio River.

The Purple People Bridge will partially reopen Thursday. It's been closed since May 11 after a piece of a support column came loose and fell into the Ohio River. Jack Moreland with Southbank Partners, which owns the bridge, says it won't be open to through traffic. The Ohio side of the bridge will still be closed.

"It's not a through-trip. The problem that we're having is on pier one, which is the first pier on the Ohio side. We have to keep that end of the bridge blocked off for both pedestrian and for bicycle traffic," Moreland says.

People will be able to walk or bike onto the bridge from the Newport side and go as far north as the state line before turning back.

"We know the bridge is very popular with a lot of walkers and a lot of bikers. It just breaks our heart to have to keep the bridge closed. But if you watch television, it reminds you… why we want to be safety conscious."

Moreland is referring to the Florida condominium collapse last week. He says Southbank Partners is being extra cautious about infrastructure until the bridge is repaired.

For that, he says, there are three options. "We can do a temporary, or we can do a fix that will serve us pretty well for the next 15 years. We could do what I call the Cadillac process and that would serve us for the next 100 years," Moreland says.

"I don't think we're going to have the money to do the Cadillac, but we probably can do the middle one, I would suspect."

Southbank Partners is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and is looking for funding. He says bridge rentals for weddings and events like the Party on the Purple help bring in some money, but more is needed.

The weekly Party on the Purple is staying on the Newport side for now, but will eventually return to the bridge. Moreland says there hasn't been any discussion yet about using the bridge for fireworks during Riverfest.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.