Interstate 471 Kentucky / Ohio
Interstate 471 constitutes an urban connector linking I-275 (Circle Freeway) in Northern Kentucky with I-71 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The six-lane freeway winds through the suburban cities of Southgate and Fort Thomas and separates urban areas of Newport and Bellevue to the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge. The eight lane tied arch bridge crosses the Ohio River into Cincinnati at the Mt. Adams neighborhood outside Downtown.
Interstate 471 was first envisioned in 1961 as an east-west connector between I-71/75 in Covington, Kentucky and I-71 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Referenced as the Riverside Expressway, it would have provided an alternative to Interstate 71 and formed an inner loop roadway system. The course envisioned for the route straddled the Ohio Riverfront north of the 4th Street Bridge, between Covington and Newport, to a proposed crossing of the river east of the L&N Bridge. A March 29, 1961 Kentucky Post article referenced the proposed Riverside Expressway as Interstate 471. The mayors of both Covington and Newport and area residents quickly expressed opposition to the highway.1
With the Riverside Expressway dropped, a new proposal arose in Summer 1962 for a freeway spur linking Newport with the planned Circle Freeway (I-275) to the south at Highland Heights. Related actions approved the route of I-275 across Northern Kentucky in March 1963, but kept the $26 million spur route for I-471 under review.1
Connecting I-275 at Highland Heights with Newport and I-71 in Cincinnati, a map released on December 10, 1967 outlined a 4.8 mile corridor for I-471. The bulk of this route follows modern day Interstate 471, with the exception of exit ramps at Newport, which were still debated at the time. Right of way acquisition for around 529 parcels needed for the roadway began in January 1968. Bidding for construction of the Ohio River bridge got underway in Fall 1970.1,2
The tied arch bridge between Newport and Cincinnati was constructed between November 1971 and September 1976. It was named October 5, 1976 after Daniel Carter Beard, the founder of the Boy Scouts who grew up in Northern Kentucky. The 2100 foot long span and a short section of I-471 were dedicated on February 14, 1977. The Ohio River crossing is generally referred to as the Big Mac Bridge because its yellow paint scheme resembles the golden arches of McDonald’s restaurants.2
While bridge work was ongoing, delays for the connecting freeway continued. Land acquisition issues arose between the state and the Newport Board of Education over a site needed for I-471 that was slated for a vocational school. Newport residents also voiced concerns about the loss of houses and potential pollution. The ramp controversy in Newport also remained a contested issue. Proposals by 1977 called for a northbound exit to 4th Street, a southbound exit to Riverside Drive and entrance ramps from 3rd and 5th Streets.1
The Newport School board eventually agreed to sell land off Grand Avenue and Sixth Street for the freeway in August 1977. A temporary connector was also reluctantly agreed upon from the Daniel Beard Bridge and 6th Street at the same time. Work by 1980 added sound barriers along sections of I-471 in Newport and Fort Thomas, while debate continued on the finalized ramp design from the bridge.1
North End – Cincinnati, OH
South End – Highland Heights, KY
Total Mileage – 5.75
Kentucky – 5.02
Cities – Highland Heights, Wilder, Southgate, Fort Thomas, Newport, Bellevue
- Junctions –
Ohio – 0.73
Cities – Cincinnati
- Junctions –
Source: December 31, 2017 Interstate Route Log and Finders List
I-471 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)
The Dan Beard Bridge was the only portion of I-471 under construction by 1973. Work further north was complicated by the landslide at Mt. Adams while the final alignment for I-471 south from Newport was still contested. Note also that the Fort Washington Way section of I-71 along the Cincinnati Riverfront was drastically overhauled during a multi-year project completed in 2000.
Construction of I-471 in Cincinnati, Ohio was not without difficulties as well. A landslide occurred in 1973 during construction of the road at the Mt. Adams neighborhood. The incident resulted in the city and state buying many of the properties damaged and requiring the relocation of 32 businesses and 330 or so families.3 Ensuing construction between 1980 and 1985 added a complex retaining wall to prevent future earth movements.4
161 vertical concrete pilings reinforced with structural steel were installed at the base of Mt. Adams for the I-471 retaining wall. Bundles of cable held 137 of the pilings in place against the gravitational force of the hill. With the added wall, costs for the one mile section of I-471 in Ohio increased to $48 million, which at the time was the most expensive mile of freeway in U.S. history.4
Interstate 471 opened to traffic on December 22, 1980 between KY 1820 (Grand Avenue) and U.S. 27 at Highland Heights. An additional section opened the following day between Memorial Parkway and the Beard Bridge. Work on the freeway culminated September 18, 1981, when Governor John Y. Brown spoke at a dedication ceremony for the opening of I-471 between Grand Avenue and Memorial Parkway.1 Final costs in 1981 for the bridge and freeway were $85 million.2
Permanent ramps at Newport would remain a hot topic until they were finally built between April 1988 and August 1989. During this time period, a truck ban was also instituted along I-471 by Governor Martha Layne Collins. The restriction ran from July 1986 and May 1988, when actions by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) lifted it.1
The freeway spur south from I-275 to U.S. 27 is unsigned KY 471. KY 471 was designated on June 1, 1990, when the section of Interstate 471 between U.S. 27 and Interstate 275 was removed from the Interstate Highway System.5
North End – Cincinnati, Ohio
South End – Highland Heights, Kentucky
- "I-471's birth slow to come – Plans and routes changed many times." The Kentucky Post (Covington, KY), November 30, 1998.
- "Change in direction: East-west route along riverfront once envisioned for Interstate 471." Cincinnati Post, May 9, 2005.
- "Mt. Adams Project Put on Hold – City Needs Approval of Next Governor." Cincinnati Post, October 25, 1990.
- "Holding Back Mt. Adams – Retaining Wall Needs Mending – Three Cables Have Lost Tension." Cincinnati Post, June 1, 1990.
- Dan Moraseski provided information regarding the establishment of Kentucky 471.
Page updated September 27, 2016.