Gondola at the Banks

This is a concept for an aerial gondola lift that crosses the Ohio River from the Banks in downtown Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky, in alignment with Race Street and Madison Avenue.

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The end of Race St. on the Ohio side of the river is currently fenced off in anticipation of construction of future phases of the Banks project, with a cul-de-sac proposed for its southern terminus.  This cul-de-sac would awkwardly overlook a proposed music venue.  On the Kentucky side, the end of Madison Avenue is a somewhat forgotten cul-de-sac river overlook with access down to Riverside Drive, a path along the river, in front of the mural-adorned floodwall.  Covington has been seeking to upgrade this area in the wake of the successful Smale Riverfront Park opening across the river.  These two street endpoints would make good locations for the terminals for a gondola lift carrying people across the river that would offer spectacular views of Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Paul Brown Stadium and the Roebling Suspension Bridge.

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Potential gondola endpoints as seen from the Skystar ferris wheel. Currently, an entertainment barge is docked on the Covington side while being rehabbed, which will be moved to Newport once completed.

An interesting bit of geography and history is that the street grids of Cincinnati and Covington are in perfect alignment, although there is no bridge that directly connects any of the street pairs that would form one long continuous street.

The end of Race St. looking south towards Madison Ave. in Covington.  A cul de sac is proposed to be built at the end of the street.
Looking north in Smale Riverfront Park. These steps align with Race Street. The end of Race St. is the elevated structure in the background of the photo.
View looking north from Madison Ave. overlook. This is an older photo with the GE building still under construction. Currently a barge is being rehabilitated in this location, partially obscuring this view. The barge will be moved to Newport once completed.

Such a gondola would primarily benefit tourism to the region.  The limited time only Skystar ferris wheel has proved to be a popular, Instagram-able attraction at the Banks this fall.  Meanwhile a larger, permanent Skywheel ferris wheel attraction is planned for Newport.  A gondola lift from Covington would provide similar great views of the Cincinnati skyline from another angle, with the added benefit of being able to circulate people between the riverbanks.

The Skystar Ferris Wheel

As far as the value of a gondola at this location to our region’s transportation system goes, there are much greater gains that we can realize elsewhere at less expense, for example simply by investing in and improving the bus system.  However, there is some potential for the transit value of a gondola in this location. The Madison Avenue terminus would only be a block away from the main transit center of TANK, the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky.  Since gondola cabins continuously circulate, a gondola be could a quick no-wait connection for TANK bus riders to get across the river.  Also, there is potential for the nearby Northern Kentucky Convention Center to expand with the redevelopment of Covington’s IRS office site Perhaps, if the organizations in charge of the Cincinnati Convention Center could partner and begin strategic planning with those in charge of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, an entire tourism ecosystem corridor could be built up in between the two. This could lead to additional hotels and entertainment options coming to the Banks in Cincinnati and a redeveloped IRS site in Covington.  A gondola could be a centerpiece and a critical link for such a corridor.

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View looking south on Madison Ave. towards the Northern Kentucky Convention Center (right side of street) and the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK) hub (left side of street.)

For those wondering what a gondola lift is and what it could look like, this feasibility study for a proposed gondola system across the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., provides pictures, technical details, and even cost estimates for construction and operations.  The Cincinnati-Covington proposal I have put forth here, however, is less complex and covers a shorter, straighter distance (about 1,900 ft.) compared to the D.C. proposal (about 3,000 ft.), so the costs may be substantially less than what is estimated in the D.C. study ($80-$90 million.)

Gondola graphic 1
From the Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola Feasibility Study Technical Summary
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From the Georgetown-Rosslyn Gondola Feasibility Study Technical Summary