CINCINNATI – Since opening in the summer of 1984, Riverbend Music Center has built a reputation for hosting world-renowned music in its outdoor amphitheater located just off Coney Island on Kellogg Avenue.
Over the decades, the music venue has also become known for something less glamorous: large traffic jams and late departures before and after each concert.
It’s a problem Cincinnati Police Sgt. Eric Franz said he snuck into the area.
“It was kind of overlooked,” said Franz. “When the place was built, not many cars came in and out with just one person. Most people had four, five, six people in one car in the original concerts. Now you have There are ones and twos; they have Ubers and Lyfts. So the attendance is the same, but the volume of the vehicles has increased. “
Riverbend can accommodate a little less than 21,000 participants. If one or two people per vehicle arrive, it means that thousands of cars are driving onto Kellogg Avenue in the hours leading up to the show.
“Typically, most of the backup is on the west side, where we (Interstate) 275 go back into Kentucky,” said Franz, as a large portion of the visitors chose to head to Riverbend from Interstate 72 on Kellogg Avenue reach. “Occasionally, when it’s Friday rush hour and we have a sold-out concert, the traffic from (Interstate) 471 to out here will be congested.”
According to Franz, the best way to avoid this type of backup would be for more drivers to take a different approach to the venue.
“There are numerous alternative routes,” he said. “If you live in Anderson Township, Newtown, Indian Hill, your best bet is to get through Mount Washington and Sutton (Road). If you are coming from the north or west side of town, you will come about 275 from the top and Below Exit 71. It’s marked. It’s the New Richmond Exit, “which gives drivers access to Kellogg Avenue on the east side of the Music Center.
“We rarely have any kind of support from the east,” said Franz.
On I-275 at the Combs-Hehl Bridge, which is only a few hundred yards from Kellogg Avenue, the construction of traffic jams will become even scarcer. Brian Cunningham, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said crews are pushing the project forward, but drivers in the area should still expect delays.
“We tried to work with the venues down there, Coney Island and Riverbend, to minimize this, but it’s an active project so these venues are going to have some impact,” he said.
As of May 2019, the bridge will include a “countercurrent” lane, a west-facing lane that will be on the east side of the interstate as drivers approach the bridge on the Ohio side.
Another part of the challenge, Franz said, is retraining concert goers to follow newly installed signs that direct drivers to their various parking options, which range from Coney Island to Riverbends west down to Belterra Park Cincinnati in the east on Kellogg .
“A lot of people will question the fact that they can’t see Riverbend when they drive by here on the Coney Island side, even though the signs say so,” he said. “Just trust the signs.”
Another tactic police officers used over the past year to reduce congestion before and after the concert: contacting the Uber and Lyft drivers.
“We made a lot of changes to make their lives easier,” said Franz, dedicating parking lot 10 exclusively to the staging of Uber and Lyft. The police will close this parking lot as a place of residence for passengers approximately 30 minutes before the end of a show.
“If people follow their app and go to this lot, they can get out much faster. Once we train the Uber and Lyft drivers, much of our overload is gone.”
Ultimately, Franz hopes these efforts will undo Riverbend’s reputation as a traffic nightmare.
“The days of the three-hour concert exit are over,” he said. “Last year we didn’t go out to concerts that lasted longer than an hour.”