Help Stop the Demolition of McBride Viaduct

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Dear Elected Leaders:
​Governor Tom Wolf; Congressman Mike Kelly; Senators Robert Casey Jr. and Patrick Toomey; State ​Senator Sean Wiley; State Rep. Patrick Harkins; Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper; Erie ​County Council; Mayor Joe Sinott and Erie City Council,

We the undersigned ask you to intercede and suspend plans by the City of Erie, PA to demolish the McBride Viaduct, a key pedestrian and pedal-bike artery that provides low-income and minority children and adults a safe route to school, to work and to recreation. (The 88-year-old Viaduct was built after five children were killed trying to cross the busy tracks.)

We further request that you urge the City to work with Erie CPR: Connect + Respect to create a public-private partnership to manage concrete skin repair, stormwater removal repair, updating and maintenance of the McBride Viaduct to help stimulate our local economy.

Situation
The City of Erie is divided by a major freight-rail corridor that serves over 700 daily trains. The Viaduct provides 75% of the crossing width for pedestrians and pedal-bikes in a 1.5 mile stretch of these tracks as they divide the Eastside. The McBride Viaduct bridge (connecting the north and south ends of East Avenue) was closed to cars and trucks in 2010 due to decades of poor maintenance. However, since being closed to vehicular traffic the Viaduct has become a key pedestrian and bike artery clocking in 200 uses a day.

Demolition Plan
The City of Erie plans to demolish the Viaduct in Fall 2017. After a $85,000 Viaduct Study by L.R.Kimball, in 2013, the LRK team recommended a “preferred alternative” of demolishing the Viaduct ($2.3 million) and rerouting vehicular and pedestrian traffic using a newly proposed Buffalo Road interchange to be added to the $180 million Bayfront Connector Highway (at an estimated cost of $4.5 million). Rerouting vehicular traffic makes practical sense; but demolishing the Viaduct would be a urban design tragedy that would greatly diminish pedestrian and bike linkage.

Examining LRK’ Flawed Study
The LRK team failed to do the following: 1) include an urban or city planner in the discussion- the team only consisted of five traffic engineers; 2) conduct a survey that would meet minimum industry standards; 3) conduct an on-site study of the non-vehicular use that would meet minimum industry standards; 4) consider the “no action alternative” of retaining the Viaduct as a vibrant pedestrian and pedal-bike route it has become; 5) retain a safe route to school for students of Wayne Middle School, Holy family School and East High School.

Challenging LRK’s Vehicle-Centric Conclusion
Ignoring their own insufficient data (which demonstrated overwhelming user preference for the Viaduct by those walking or riding bikes) LRK claimed that a 9-foot wide path along the highway is a reasonable substitute for the 29-foot-wide Viaduct. The narrower highway path is a noisier, more air-polluted and longer route. Adjacent to speeding traffic, the highway path subjects pedestrians to rain and snow kicked from cars, trucks and tractor-trailers.

Follow the “Buki” Plan: Boldly Invest in an Existing Asset & Create a Walkable City
The existing McBride Viaduct would cost over $30 million to construct today. A unique Erie asset, a Viaduct Park can be a linchpin project to revitalize East Avenue. It is estimated to will cost $3 million to stabilize the Viaduct and keep it safely working. Initial funds can be obtained by reallocating the $2.3 million already scheduled in demolition costs, and the remainder in an assortment of grants and private sector contributions. Stabilizing the Viaduct will provide several years of construction jobs, can help reverse declining real estate values, and, according to industry standards, can be expected to provide 33 permanent private sector jobs.



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