By a 4:1 ratio, children walking to school (and adults walking or biking to work, etc.) prefer the McBride Viaduct (green) to the East 12th St. and Bayfront Connector path (pink.)
A lack of basic maintenance for decades finally led to the closing of the bridge to vehicles in 2010 but the VIADUCT ISN'T FALLING DOWN.
The Viaduct wasn't maintained for years. The gutters filled with dirt, water back up, it froze and expanded and has broken up the "skin" of the bridge. But, as one PennDOT engineer commented, even if we leave it as it is today, the Viaduct "will stand another century." While cars, trucks and 22-ton tractor-trailers shouldn't use the Viaduct, over 200 pedestrian and bike trips are safely made over this key bridge 24/7 - twelve months a year.
JOBS - Through a Community Benefits Agreement, we can create a infrastructure repair training program on the Viaduct and put local people to work.
SAFETY - If we tear down the Viaduct, children will be forced to walk a loud, dangerous route along a highway and busy state route next to 14,000 speeding cars, trucks and tractor-trailers.
NO CITY PLANNER - Without a city planner on staff, urban design decisions are made by engineers and administrators who live in the suburbs and tend to drive everywhere. They don't understand how cities work.
DEMO JOE - Mayor Joe Sinnott turned down state funds to rehab the Viaduct back in 2007. He never explained this.
CLOSED? - In 2010 the Viaduct was closed to vehicles, and, it became a joyful and preferred route for East-siders including dozens of students at East High School (now East Middle School.)
STILL NO CITY PLANNER - After the Viaduct was "closed" the L.R.Kimball firm was hired to study the situation. L.R.Kimball's five traffic engineers (evidently untrained in urban design) considered three options:
1. Demolish the Viaduct and build a new bridge - $20 million;
2. Repair the Viaduct for continued vehicular use ($10 million);
3. Build a new interchange at Buffalo Road ($6 million) and demolish the Viaduct ($1.2 million) and re-route pedestrians along a highway and new sidewalk on the south-side of E.12th - a busy state road.
SURPRISE! - Late in 2013, L.R.Kimball announced that they recommended - building a new interchange at Buffalo Road ($6 million) and demolishing the Viaduct ($1.2 million) and re-routing pedestrians along a highway and new sidewalk on the south-side of E.12th - a busy state road. BUT, since 2013 some very IMPORTANT CHANGES have been made to their plan WITHOUT HOLDING ANY PUBLIC HEARINGS about these changes. For instance, demolition COSTS have risen from $1.2 million, to $2.3 million and now to over $3 million - more than the cost of keeping the Viaduct. The promised "SAFE" new sidewalk on the south-side of E.12th has been abandoned. If the Viaduct is demolished, each year, more than 70,000 pedestrians and bicyclists will be rerouted across a dangerous intersection with 5 million speeding vehicles.
AND it turns out that L.R.Kimball conducted a VERY FLAWED STUDY - Experts reviewing L.R.Kimball's report have identified a lack of community engagement and casual dismissal of data that supported stabilizing the Viaduct for non-vehicular use.
THERE IS A BETTER OPTION - ErieCPR has proposed that Erie go ahead and build a new interchange at Buffalo Road ($6 million) and stabilize the Viaduct for non-vehicular use ($3 million.)
FUNDING THE FIX - Re-skinning the Viaduct can be partially funded using money currently slated for demolition, and, the rest of the money can be raised via a public-private partnership (like Frontier Park's LEAF) seeking grants over the next few years.
INSURANCE & MAINTENANCE aren't really issues: The City pays one bill for all of Erie, no changes if the Viaduct goes or stays. Once the Viaduct is re-skinned, maintenance costs will be minimal and can be supported by the public-private partnership, perhaps ErieCPR.
Erie has a new Mayor and some new City Council members who have promised visionary, bold, new, transparent leadership. ASK ALL YOUR ELECTED LEADERS to hold a PUBLIC HEARING ON THE VIADUCT before any demolition contract is signed.