Beep! Tips to help you avoid Riverfest traffic

CINCINNATI - How many cars does it take to get a quarter of a million people into downtown Cincinnati?

You'll find out Sunday if you plan to venture down to the banks of the Ohio River to take part in the annual Riverfest  celebration and marvel at the Rozzi fireworks spectacular.

While pedestrians and cars alike will fill city streets through the day, most downtown streets will remain open so visitors can experience the excitement what Cincinnati’s urban core is all about. But a number of streets will continue to have lane restrictions due to ongoing construction zones.

Want to make sure you spend the bulk of your time having fun and not trying to cure a traffic headache? Here are four tips:                    

Know Where to Go

Sunday's end-of-summer party includes a bunch of free, family-friendly events like the KiddChris Cardboard Boat Race (2 p.m.), the Rubber Duck Regatta (3 p.m.), P&G Family Fun zones, live music and vendor booths. Everything gets started at noon.

The main event, Rozzi's Famous Fireworks display, lights up the sky starting at 9:05 p.m. This year's theme is "Back to the Fireworks" -- the display will be choreographed to an "'80s-themed soundtrack ."

Sounds fun, right? It will be, as long as you know how to get to and from Sawyer Point and Yeatman's Cove.

Keep in mind: Access to the Cincinnati riverfront is going to be limited to pedestrians only.

Third Street, and all streets north of Third Street, will be open so that people can access points throughout Downtown. On-street parking will not be available throughout the downtown area south of Court Street after 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Other important closures include:

  • The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge, Roebling Suspension Bridge, Purple People Bridge and the Taylor Southgate Bridge will all close at 6 p.m. to both vehicles and pedestrians.
  • The streets into Mt. Adams will close at 6 p.m.
  • The Daniel Carter Beard Bridge (I-471) will close at 7:30 p.m.
  • The Third Street exits from westbound Columbia Parkway and southbound I-71 will close at 9 p.m.

The actual timing of these closures may be adjusted as traffic volumes dictate, according to Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering.

Dennis Lechlak, the city's traffic engineer, recommends everyone coming to Riverfest to take advantage of the parking facilities located throughout the downtown areas and walk down to the riverfront.

Parking is available in the many lots and garages north of Third Street. Additional parking lots are located north and west of Paul Brown Stadium.

Cash parking is available in riverfront surface lots in the vicinity of the stadium on a limited first-come, first-served basis.

Please note that construction sites in and around the riverfront are off limits for public parking. Sites will be clearly marked and secured, and anyone parking in these areas will be towed, Lechlak promised.

Need more advice? The city keeps a up-to-date traffic map  with lots of information to help plan a downtown driving experience.

A Little Too Crowded? Head Over To... 

It's better to just admit it early: downtown is going to be packed with people and no one is going to be happy about it.

Sawyer Point, Yeatman's Cove, the Serpentine Wall (blankets can be placed on the wall starting at 6 a.m, Saturday; park reopens at 6 a.m. Sunday) and Smale Riverfront Park are popular spots for a reason. They're beautiful and right on the water.

But if you're not willing to put up with the crowds, consider heading over to Mt. Adams on the hill, just east of downtown, for an awesome over-the-top look at the fireworks.  Are you a West Sider? Don't look past Mt. Echo Park for a nice change of pace.

Does your blood bleed too blue to venture into the Buckeye State for Labor Day weekend? We understand. Kentucky offers some great vantage points to take in the show including Newport on the Levee, the Roebling Bridge area in Covington or the overlook at Devou Park.

Looking for somewhere that offers a reserved seat? That's doable as well -- for a price. has a great list of restaurants and riverfront locales  that make for a picturesque Riverfest evening. The food won't be bad, either. Just make sure to make to call well in advance.

Better Arrive Early

Sure, the fireworks don’t start until 9 p.m. but there’s no reason not to show up early. After all, everyone else will be.

People from all over the region will venture into downtown Cincinnati to enjoy the festivities and food, all of which begins at noon. So getting there early will give a guest a better chance of finding premium parking in riverfront lots, securing a good spot for the fireworks show and avoiding delays from heavy traffic.

And, of course, getting to enjoy the day. 

Use Public Transportation When Possible

As an alternative to driving, all are encouraged to use public transportation to obtain quick, convenient access to the downtown area.

No, the streetcar isn’t up-and-running just yet, but Metro will operate on a normal

operating schedule. 

For more information, call MetroCenter at (513) 621-4455 or visit its website to see schedules and plan a trip. Also, don't forget about the Southbank Shuttle or TANK based out of Northern Kentucky. They'll help get you to either side of the river. 

Covington details 'impact zone' plan

The closures will also affect residents on the south side of the river.

Covington officials said they identified the downtown area north of Fourth Street, Devou Park; Drees Pavilion; Kenton Hills, The Bluffs Condominiums and the Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood communities as the “impact area” for the event.

Covington officials said Madison Avenue will remain open to allow access to public parking lots and garages until they are full or 6 p.m. Sunday, whichever happens first.

Once the lots are full, Madison Avenue will be closed to through traffic north of Fourth Street. The only exceptions will be TANK bus service and invitation holders to the Metropolitan Club and hotel guests with room keys and parking passes. Rivercenter Boulevard will also be closed to traffic.

Police said the impact area will be an alcohol free zone after 6 p.m. Anyone bringing alcohol to a private party in the impact area will have to do so by 6 p.m. Coolers and beverage containers will be subject to inspection.

Covington officials also had other restrictions of note for the public:

  • No Glass containers
  • No Bicycles, Roller Blades, or Roller Skates
  • No Skateboards
  • No Fireworks
  • No Pets are permitted in the area
  • Coolers will be checked at checkpoints
  • No Motorized Vehicles are permitted on the floodwall area
  • NO VENDORS are permitted in the Restricted Area
  • No Swimming in rivers
  • No Parking in grassy areas in Devou Park

More traffic restrictions:

1. All streets north of 4th street and east of Madison Ave. are closed to all vehicular traffic at 6 p.m.
2. The Suspension Bridge will be closed to all traffic at 6 pm.
3. The Clay Wade Bailey Bridge will close at 6 p.m.
4. Certain areas within the Impact Area will be posted as "No Parking Tow Away Zones". Vehicles parked in these areas will be towed starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday.
5. Devou Park, Kenton Hills and the Bluffs will have restricted traffic beginning at 4 p.m. Access to these areas will be restricted to residents and their guests only.
6. Vehicles will not be permitted to leave the Impact Area until authorized by Safety Officials. The safe evacuation of the pedestrian traffic leaving the Riverside Drive viewing area will be their first concern. The Safety Officials will coordinate the traffic movement as soon as all pedestrians have safely cleared the area. This may be up to one hour after the fireworks have completed.

There will be no parking in the following areas:

  • Riverside Drive (the entire street)
  • Garrard Street in between East 2nd St. and Riverside Drive
  • Kennedy St. in between East 2nd St. and Riverside Drive
  • Shelby St. in between East 2nd St. and Riverside Drive
  • Scott Blvd north of East 4th St. (including parking meters)
  • Greenup St. north of East 4th St. (including parking meters)
  • East 3rd Street east of Madison Ave. (including parking meters)
  • Park Place (including parking meters)
  • Court Street (including parking meters)
  • Surface lots along the floodwall on Rivercenter Blvd in between Madison Ave and Johnson St.
  • Below the Roebling Suspension Bridge
  • Grass areas in Devou Park
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