Stop the “Worst City for African-Americans” from Getting Worse

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Roland Slade
Roland Slade signed this petition

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Dear Gov. Wolf:

We the undersigned ask you to urge PennDOT, the Public Utilities Commission, the Mayor of Erie and Erie City Council to order Swank Construction to cease all East Ave. Bridge / McBride Viaduct demolition activities.

We further request you to urge the owners of the Viaduct (the City of Erie) to work with the community group, Erie CPR: Connect + Respect (now affiliated with the 501c3, Winds of Change), to establish a public-private partnership to manage Viaduct repairs (concrete skin repair, storm-water removal repair, and updates and maintenance of the structure for continued use as a non-vehicular pedestrian and bike bridge).

Many households near the Viaduct do not own a vehicle. These families rely on the Viaduct to safely walk or bike (over the railroad tracks) to get to school, work and grocery shopping, etc. Demolition preparations have already rerouted pedestrians and bicyclists to a longer, narrower path next to a 4-lane arterial highway (with 14,000 daily cars, trucks and tractor-trailers speeding by).

If the Viaduct is demolished, the City of Erie will lose “air rights” over the railroad tracks. If the City were ever permitted to rebuild, a new bridge would have to be a higher structure in order to meet new railroad regulations. And, a new bridge would be subject to regulations under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) slope requirements and would necessitate a longer bridge – one that would not fit within the Viaduct’s existing footprint. In addition, the cost of a new bridge would be at least $15M, many times the cost of fixing the existing Viaduct –less than $1.35M. We have the money. PennDOT has already confirmed they can provide $1.26M in demolition-offset funds to help fix the Viaduct.  

National urban experts (Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Philip Langdon, Charles McKinney, John Norquist and Terry Schwarz) have visited the McBride Viaduct and spoken out in favor of saving this artery to foster walkability, connectivity, public health and economic development. New York Times writer Michael Kimmelman covered the Viaduct issue on the front page of the March 12, 2018 paper. Now, an Emmy-award-winning filmmaker (Lisa Russell) is creating a documentary on the systemic issues facing this city, “An Erie Silence.”

Local organizations including the Erie NAACP, the African-American Concerned Clergy, Preservation Erie and CIVITAS have called for a demolition delay and a Public Hearing.

Dozens of residents have spoken against demolition at the bi-weekly City Council meetings. Others have written op-eds for local papers commenting on various issues surrounding demolition: Social Justice (Abdullah Washington), Civil Rights (Jim Wertz) morality (Rev. Dr. Mock) and history (Dr. Judy Lynch).

Demolishing the Viaduct would be a cultural, urban design and civil rights tragedy, forever obliterating a huge part of Erie’s Irish history and diminishing pedestrian and bike linkage on Erie’s Eastside. The CEO of Vnet, Joel Deuterman just wrote an op-ed, "Saving the McBride Viaduct would be Visionary." 

Though it is very late in the game, we can still save the bridge.

By reinvesting in this functional, historic and iconic bridge, we can create neighborhood pride and hope that City Hall disregard for genuine public participation can be corrected and every voice counts in successful urban infrastructure decisions in Erie, in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Together we can give voice to the marginalized.

Please sign this petition – and share it today.