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Riverfest Returns: Here Are The Bridges And Streets That Will Be Closed

John Minchillo

Riverfest returns to the banks of the Ohio River this Sunday. It's one of the biggest events in the area and culminates with a free fireworks show over the river. It was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Cincinnati, Newport and Covington police all say they're ready for the event, and wish to remind people of some rules. Coolers, grills, tents, big umbrellas and large chairs are prohibited. Pets are a no-no. Drones, laser pointers and other electronic devices, and your own fireworks, should be left at home.

Alcohol cannot be brought to Riverfest. Covington Police say any alcohol for a private event in the impacted area must be brought in before 6 p.m. After that, even residents won't be able to.

Don't bring roller skates, rollerblades, scooters, motorized vehicles or bicycles, they say. Vendors must have a special event permit to be near the river.

Swimming in the Ohio and Licking rivers is not allowed, and boats cannot moor along the Covington shoreline.

Parents are advised to provide hearing protection for small children, and everyone's cautioned to wear clothing appropriate for the weather.

Bridge And Road Closures

Newport Police specifically suggest planning which side of the river you want to be on before 6 p.m. That's when a number of bridge closures start, including the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and the Taylor Southgate Bridge. Pedestrians can cross there, but only before 7:30 p.m.

The Roebling Suspension Bridge is already closed to vehicular traffic because of construction work, and pedestrians won't be able to use it as of 6 p.m. And the Purple People Bridge isn't open because that's where some of the fireworks launch from.

Cincinnati's Department of Transportation and Engineering says local access to I-471 will be shut down at 7 p.m., and the Third Street exits from westbound Columbia Parkway and from southbound I-71 will close at 9 p.m.

Access to the Cincinnati riverfront will be limited to pedestrians only. Third Street and all Downtown streets to the north will be open, but after 11 a.m. Sunday, there won't be on-street parking. DOTE recommends parking in a Downtown lot or garage, and either walking or taking the streetcar, which is free, or Metro to The Banks.

Newport Police also say getting around might not be easy. Riverboat Row and Columbia Street north of 4th Street close Sunday at 8 a.m. At 7:30 p.m. a number of other roads close, including Monmouth Street between 3rd and 11th streets, Dave Cowens Drive, 10th Street between Saratoga and York, and the 471 off-ramps to Route 8. The 4th Street bridge closes at 8:30 p.m.

In Covington, police say all streets north of east 4th from Madison Avenue to the Licking River close at 6 p.m. Access to Devou Park, Kenton Hills and the Bluffs will be restricted to residents and guests starting at 2 p.m.

Advice For Getting Out

Once the fireworks are done, getting away from the river will likely be slow going. All three cities say turn off your GPS and follow the directions of officers.

Newport Police say all outbound traffic will be sent to I-471 and I-275. They say if you are directed on a route you don't want to take, stay with it until you can get on an interstate, then take the next exit to turn around.

At about 9 p.m., Monmouth Street will reopen and become a one-way street going south. All traffic near Dave Cowens will be directed to I-471. Vehicles leaving via Columbia Parkway will be sent south on Licking Pike toward Wilder, and I-275.

Covington Police will keep streets near the riverfront closed until pedestrian traffic has cleared out, which could take an hour after the fireworks are done. Then officers will reopen the 4th Street Bridge, and Newport traffic can head west.