Initially opened in 1977, the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge carries Interstate 471 between Newport, Kentucky and Cincinnati, Ohio. The Big Mac Bridge spans U.S. 52 above the north shore of the Ohio River in this scene. Photo by Steve Hanudel (07/03/06).
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