NEWPORT, Ky. — Closed since May after a stone fell from the first pier, The Purple People Bridge is undergoing a permanent fix, and the scope of the work being done could have a negative impact on local businesses.
Close to 700,000 people would typically cross the bridge in a given year. That, paired with a more than $100,000,000 investment into upgrades at Newport on the Levee, some business leaders said the structure’s closure comes with concerns.
“We want that foot traffic,” Newport Business Association president Mark Ramler said. “We need that here in Newport.”
He said not having access to Ohio via the bridge means lost dollars for the local economy.
“Kind of really terrible for Newport on the Levee,” Ramler said. “They’ve rebranded. Have so many cool shops, restaurants and bars. It’s a great place. We’re missing out on tons and tons of foot traffic from people who live downtown.”
The solution to the bridge’s problem requires a two-fold operation. First, the Ohio side needs to be jacked up -- a temporary fix. The tentative completion date for that part of the project is October.
“We know it’s inconvenienced folks. We understand that,” Newport-Southbank Bridge Company chairman Jack Moreland said. “But if you’re having convenience and you have safety to weigh against that – I think safety wins all the time.”
Part two comes during the winter, when the bridge will be jacked up again, and hopefully be ready to reopen by March or April of 2022.
“Instead of using support beams, we’d replace the rock that fell out,” Moreland said. “Or we’d pour reinforced concrete in there where the rocks are.
The cost is also becoming an issue. The Newport-Southbank Bridge Company brings in about $100,000 a year. The estimated cost of the fix is $200,000 on top of about $1 million needed to paint the bridge.
“We weren’t ready for a catastrophic event like this,” Moreland said. “When I say catastrophic, I’m talking about from a budget perspective.”
Ramler said he knows how important the bridge is to local businesses, and he’s frustrated by that.
“The inconsistency,” he said. “If the bridge is reopened, but temporarily, are they going to close it for another month? Another year? It’ll turn people off from, ‘you know what? Let’s not walk over to Newport.’”