During a closed-door, two-hour meeting at the Port Authority on Wednesday afternoon, 12.13.17, representatives from the City and ErieCPR were startled to learn from a PennDOT representative that the amount of money available to rehab the Viaduct has grown a half million, from $1.2M to $1.7, and that that figure may go higher.
However, even the higher figure of $1.7M leaves a gap of $1.3M that must be met to raise the $3.M needed to fix the Viaduct for continued use as a non-vehicular bridge. Luckily, incoming Mayor Joe Sinnott already plans to hire a full-time grant writer which will create an opportunity for the City to use PennDOT's $1.7M to partner with the County and other organizations to apply for matching grants in support of public health, safe routes to school, place-making, social-justice, economic development and infrastructure improvements.
In addition, Councilman Andre' Horton noted at at the 12.14.17 news conference at the Viaduct, that, if Councilman Jay Breneman's proposed legislation to create a county-wide "pot" of money for municipal improvements passes at the December 19 County Council meeting, at least a part of the balance needed to repair the Viaduct for continued non-vehicular use may be available locally.
But there are hurdles to overcome. As PennDOT noted, and as Attorney Rick Filippi has stated, the ultimate fate of the Viaduct is a political one. The City of Erie's highest elected officials must be willing to keep the Viaduct. To save the Viaduct, our new Mayor and Council must embrace a vision of a future, thriving Erie and work creatively with other organizations to transform this city instead of continuing to "manage the decline."