CINCINNATI -- The fireworks aren’t the only bright lights Riverfest goers will see Sunday night.
Don’t forget about the brake lights.
Almost as famous as the Rozzi fireworks themselves are the multiple street (not to mention bridge) closures and seemingly endless gridlock throughout the riverfront communities during and after the annual Labor Day celebration.
City officials are expecting more than a quarter of a million people to make their way to the riverfront for this year’s festivities, which will stretch from noon until the conclusion of the 9 p.m. fireworks show, and -- as of last year -- watching the fireworks on TV from the comfort of your home is no longer an option.
Now, I'll be honest with you here. If you're driving and parking anywhere near the riverfront and plan on watching the entire fireworks show, you will almost certainly find yourself sitting in traffic, with a view quite like the photo above.
But fear not.
The cities of Cincinnati, Covington, Newport and Bellevue -- the most popular destinations for celebrating Riverfest -- have all released street closures and parking suggestions, to help ease congestion and make finding a place to park less -- well -- laborious.
Generally, officials advise knowing where you plan to go, arriving early, and using public transportation when possible. A good target is to have yourself planted no later than 6 p.m., if not earlier. The public is allowed to start claiming spots along the riverfront as early as 6 a.m. Saturday.
Most of all, though, patience is key.
When it comes to closures, the Purple People Bridge connecting Newport and Cincinnati will close at 5 p.m. The Clay Wade Bailey, Roebling Suspension and Taylor-Southgate bridges will all close to vehicle and pedestrian traffic starting at 6 p.m. (Pedestrians can still cross the west side of the Taylor-Southgate until 7:30 p.m.) The Daniel Carter Beard Bridge (Interstate 471) will close in both directions at 7:30 p.m. The Fourth Street Bridge, connecting Covington and Newport, will close at 8 p.m.
In Northern Kentucky, the exit ramps from Interstate 471 to Kentucky 8, accessing Newport and Bellevue, will close at 7:30 p.m. In Cincinnati, exits onto Third Street from Interstate 71 and U.S. 50/Columbia Parkway westbound will close at 9 p.m.
When it comes to parking options, restrictions and specific street closures, here's a map.
Click on the gray, square legend button in the top, left corner to select which traffic or parking restrictions you’d like to display on the map. Use the +/- buttons in the bottom right to zoom:
Here are a few other notes on getting around each riverfront city, both before and after the fireworks:
- Third Street exits from westbound Columbia Parkway and southbound Interstate 71 will close at 9 p.m.
- Street parking Downtown south of Court Street (including metered spaces) will be prohibited after 11 a.m.
- See other parking restrictions in the map above.
- All streets north of East Fourth Street and east of Madison Avenue will close at 6 p.m.
- Streets in the impact area (see map) will be marked as "No Parking Tow Away Zones" starting at 7 a.m. Sunday.
- Glass containers, bicycles, skateboards, pets, roller blades, roller skates, and fireworks are all prohibited in the impact area.
- Madison Avenue will remain open to allow access to public parking lots and garages until they are full or 6 p.m., whichever occurs first.
- Devou Park, Kenton Hills and The Bluffs will have restricted traffic beginning at 2 p.m. Access will be restricted to residents and their guests only.
- Streets in the impact area will remain closed to vehicle traffic until Covington police determine the area to be sufficiently cleared of pedestrians, which may be up to an hour after the fireworks are completed. Vehicles parked in the impact area after 7 a.m. Sunday will be towed.
- See map above for parking restrictions.
- Riverboat Row and Columbia Street below Fourth Street will close Sunday morning, and Third Street will close westbound from York and go one-way east from York to Columbia, as well.
- Cowans Drive, Tenth Street (between Saratoga and York), Monmouth Street (from Third to 11th streets), will close to all non-emergency traffic at 7 p.m.
- Interstate 471 exit ramps to Kentucky 8 will close at 7:30 p.m.
- After the fireworks, all traffic will be routed toward Interstates 471 or 275. City officials ask drivers take whichever entrance ramp to which they are closest or directed to by emergency personnel.
- All traffic using Kentucky 8 after the event will be directed to Interstate 471.
- All westbound traffic on York Street will be directed south on Central Avenue (Kentucky 9) to 12th Street, west on 12th street, and follow Kentucky 9 to Interstate 275.
- See parking restrictions in the map above.
- The following streets will close to vehicle traffic at 5:30 p.m.: Glazier Avenue from Wilson Road to Taylor Avenue, Bonnie Leslie Avenue from Berry to Sherry avenues, Geiger Avenue, Anspaugh Avenue, Cleveland Avenue, and Observatory Avenue from Grandview Avenue to its terminus.
- Fairfield Avenue will be closed to all westbound traffic at Riviera from 8 p.m. until pedestrian traffic and shuttle buses are clear from the vicinity of Interstate 471 and Dave Cowens Drive.
- Riviera Drive will be closed to northbound traffic during the fireworks up until the ramps to Interstate 471 reopen.
- Berry Avenue, which is normally one-way north from Bonnie Leslie to Cleveland avenues, will harbor two-way traffic until traffic clears out of the city.
- See parking restrictions in the map above.
Some Final Tips
> Once again: Know where you're going and arrive early. It's worth it to walk a little longer to the riverfront if it means spending a little less time stuck in post-fireworks gridlock.
> Forget the GPS, at least until you’re on the highway. A number of streets, especially after the fireworks, may have turned from two-way to one-way in order to respond to traffic demands. Most major roads will have emergency personnel directing traffic, or at least on site to guide drivers who need some instruction.
> Even if you need to head north, sometimes southbound is the best bet. This is especially true if you’re on a street with access to an interstate in one direction more immediately than the other. Officials say entering the interstate as soon as possible — even if you have to drive to the next exit and turn around — will help speed up the flow of traffic and clear congestion more quickly.
> Consider public transit like Cincinnati Metro, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky, or Red Bike as alternatives to driving.
> After the fireworks, anyone using TANK’s park-and-ride service from Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights can find the bus at the intersection of Dave Cowens Drive and I-471 near the Port of Entry in Newport. The last bus will leave 30 minutes after the conclusion of the fireworks.
> Keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians and bicyclists, as there will certainly be plenty of folks trying to cut through cars stopped in traffic.
> Pedestrians and cyclists: Follow traffic laws, and don't cut through stopped traffic.
Above all, practice safety and patience.
Follow WCPO transportation and development reporter, Pat LaFleur, on Twitter (@pat_laFleur).