Architect Adam Trott Challenges "Alarmist" Statements by Local Engineer

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In January, architect Adam Trott, president of ErieCPR, outlined a $1.35M repair plan for the Viaduct to be funded by PennDOT (1.26M) and the City ($72,000) leaving a $20,000 balance to be covered by grants and donations. An additional $5,000 will be raised by CPR each year to cover maintenance costs. Trott’s plan remedies the cause of the deterioration by cleaning and repairing the storm drains. Trott then proposes to remove any damaged concrete from the piers and underdeck and to seal the surface. Filling the potholes on the deck will conclude this stabilization of the Viaduct.

In early February, engineer Hank Graygo P.E. wrote a letter, shared by Mayor Schember, stating that Trott’s proposed “deck surface patch is only a cosmetic treatment of the symptoms” (implying that, if filled, the pot-holes will reoccur). Graygo overlooks the fact that, by removing the causes of the potholes (vehicles and water backing up from the storm drains), the “cosmetic” filling of the pot holes is a completely functional solution.

In validation of Trott’s observations, Graygo noted that there is “water within the space between rebar and outside face of support structure.” And, as Trott has explained, Graygo agrees that “continued deterioration will accelerate with each freeze-thaw cycle.”  With continued lack of maintenance, concrete will continue to “separate from the steel, and allow the steel to deteriorate.” However, Trott’s repairs will end the deterioration, remove spalling concrete and compromised rebar, and replace and seal needed rebar and coat with a sealant for protection until such a time as cosmetic repairs can be grant-funded.  

Hank Graygo mistakenly reported that any repairs to the Viaduct would initiate an ADA requirement to lower the Viaduct’s 6% slope. While new build projects do require a 5% slope, the Viaduct is “grandfathered-in”.  

Hank Graygo inaccurately claims that repairing the Viaduct for continued pedestrian and bike use will require the complete overhaul of the deck for vehicular traffic. Since the CPR plan is for non-vehicular use, Graygo’s statement, is irrelevant to the CPR plan.

Hank Graygo rendered his “engineering judgement” saying the Viaduct “poses an inherent safety hazard to both people and property and should not be used.” But, the Viaduct doesn’t pose a safety hazard; instead the City has allowed it to remain open on the span for expanded pedestrian and bike use (and open below for parking) since the deck was closed to vehicles in 2010.

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Graygo dramatically states that the “ability to allow public safety vehicles” on the bridge is “non-existent.” But, late last year, City fire trucks, loaded with water, worked from atop the Viaduct as they successfully fought a blaze in an East Avenue warehouse. This City action utilizing the Viaduct for emergency vehicles directly contradicts Graygo’s claim.

 Two Erie firetrucks like these drove onto Viaduct in November 2017.

Two Erie firetrucks like these drove onto Viaduct in November 2017.

Trott responded that Graygo’s brief letter noting “Graygo’s position of not letting anyone on the bridge is overly alarmist, and I don't blame him for being overly cautious.  He is a licensed P.E. with his liability on the line, and I believe he is doing this pro-bono.  Graygo is not going to be anything less than the most Conservative in his opinion.” 

Trott reports that, “at no time has the City or PennDOT taken action that supports Hank Graygo's insinuation that the bridge could possibly be on the verge of imminent failure.  He simply says basically to stay off it until more investigation is done.  I also take my professional registration seriously and certainly don't intend to risk anyone's safety by suggesting something other than what I have the utmost confidence in stating.  Bridges like this are being repaired all the time, not demolished.”  

Trott explains that Graygo’s letter “is less alarming when you actually dissect his technical description of what is happening.  Graygo noticeably avoids saying the bridge will fall down at any time.  Instead he raises alarms through innuendo, and then makes a grand safe statement.  Hank Graygo's description is nothing different from what I've said and presented publicly regarding the bridge's condition.  Graygo tries to make it sound more distressful than what it is.”

Trott clarifies, “Technically, water has gotten between the outer rebar and the outermost concrete, that's all.  It has spalled some of the concrete and it has eroded very limited patches of rebar.  Graygo never claims the rebar erosion is enough to cause imminent structural failure.  I agree we should splice some of the extreme eroded rebar examples before patching the concrete overtop, but they are very limited in their occurrence.  Graygo’s photo of the "crack" is another instance of only outer concrete skin spalling, not that the beam itself is cracking all the way through and compromised (but he lets you assume such).  An untrained eye could read Graygo’s description differently if you don't understand the technical conditions.”

Trott notes that, in his opinion, Graygo also “incorrectly suggests that highway grade vehicle loading capacity is required for this bridge, even though we are reducing its loading to only bikes and pedestrians - not highway vehicles.  This fundamental misunderstanding of the bridge's structural requirements to function under its new use is at the core of the PennDOT misfire on what the bridge needs for repairs.” 

Trott summarized “I disagree with Graygo’s stern worded comment that my suggested work plan neither stabilizes nor renders the structure safe.  Graygo’s premise is wrong to begin with - the structure is not unsafe now.  Its only spalling skin, and my work plan stabilizes the structure's skin from popping off any more pieces.  The structure is intact.” 

Trott concluded, “This has become an interesting community debate, but I stand firm on my understanding of the actual conditions.  The City and PennDOT's lack of drastic action only affirms my position. We need that public hearing.”   

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