Translating Cincinnati USA’s travel lingo.
When it comes to travel in Cincinnati USA, what you hear
from locals and what you see on a map may be two very different things. The
city and surrounding region have an impressive assortment of highways, each
often possessing its own unofficial nickname (or two). Add to this a major
river spanned by multiple bridges and Cincinnati’s proximity to two other states—Kentucky
and Indiana—and you have a perfect storm for even the most travel-savvy
Fear not, however. Once you understand the local
terminology, Cincinnati is easy to traverse, with light traffic and easy
commutes when compared to cities like Chicago and Atlanta.
Downtown is the obvious city center, but the Cincinnati USA
region extends north and east, as well as west into Indiana and south into
Kentucky. The Ohio River and other major thoroughfares act as clear boundaries
to help newcomers make their way around town.
I-75 A major
north-south artery, I-75 is situated slightly west of the city. For
suburbanites in both Ohio and Northern Kentucky, I-75 is often the most direct
way to travel to and from downtown. However, I-75’s multi-state reach means
you’ll encounter some long-haul truck traffic.
I-71 Whereas I-75
runs more directly north/south, I-71 runs slightly northeast/southwest. It is
also common for suburbanites to use I-71 when traveling into town. I-71 joins
with I-75 going south at the Brent Spence Bridge, and they cross the Ohio River
together into Kentucky, splitting again after approximately 20 miles.
I-275 At 84.5
miles, it’s the longest loop highway in the U.S. and the only loop to travel
through three states (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana). It intersects (and connects)
many of the area’s major thoroughfares. More oval than circle, 275 is often the
most convenient way to reach the area’s eastern- and western-most neighbors,
such as Eastgate or Lawrenceburg, Ind.
I-471 A 4.8-mile
expressway connecting I-71 downtown with I-275 in Alexandria, Ky., I-471 passes
by Newport, Ky., and other attractions on the riverfront.
just north of downtown Cincinnati and heading 429 miles west, I-74 is most
commonly used to get to Cincinnati’s western neighborhoods.
Ohio Rt. 562 This
state route connects I-71 to I-75 through the city of Norwood. As a result,
locals often refer to this stretch as the Norwood Lateral, though you’ll never
see a sign confirming this nickname. Though it’s only three miles long, it’s
surprisingly useful, especially as a means of avoiding traffic on the major
Ohio Highway 126 When
it comes to highway names, this route is the most confusing for new residents.
Most natives refer to it as Cross County Highway—it dissects three counties on
its 41-mile path from Ross, Ohio (west, near the Ohio/Indiana border), to
Montgomery (a northeast suburb). In 1997, officials renamed the expressway in
honor of the 40th U.S. president, hence the third name you’ll hear: Ronald
Reagan Highway. In fact, you can often tell how long someone’s lived in town by
what he or she calls this road. Long-time residents refer to Cross County when
giving directions. Newer residents (and die-hard Republicans) will use the more
up-to-date “Ronald Reagan.”
Here are a few more tricks for deciphering the local travel
The Viaduct This
is a verbal shortcut describing the Western Hills Viaduct. Twice as long as any
of the Ohio River bridges, it connects Harrison Avenue and Central Parkway,
thus linking the center of town to the city’s West Side.
Big Mac Bridge Officially
named the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge in honor of the Boy Scouts founder who
grew up in the area, this bridge allows I-471 to cross the river. As a result,
locals sometimes call it the 471 bridge. But far more common is the use of its
nickname—the Big Mac Bridge. The name derives from the early 1980s when
McDonald’s attempted to open a floating restaurant in Newport, Ky. Plans fell
through but the name remains, also thanks in part to the bridge’s bright yellow
Purple People Bridge
Officially named the Newport Southbank Bridge, this colorful, pedestrian-only
bridge connects the Cincinnati riverfront with the Newport riverfront.
Fort Washington Way
This highway connects I-71 and I-75 through the city center, as well as
provides access to U.S. 50, which heads east along the Ohio River, serving as
the main route to the city’s southeastern neighborhoods. Here’s the twist:
Along the way, U.S. 50 changes names several times, creating confusion among
the uninitiated. Out of downtown, U.S. 50 becomes Columbia Parkway and
eventually Wooster Pike. Though puzzling at times, U.S. 50 is a scenic,
must-see drive for newcomers.
The Cut In The Hill
This is a 1.3-mile section of I-71/I-75 that slices through hills along the
Ohio River. The northbound lanes boast a stunning view of Cincinnati as they
round a bend to suddenly reveal our iconic skyline. And during rush hour, you
might have ample time to take in the view, as this stretch often becomes
particularly congested in both directions.