$3 million... To demo. or not to demo. that is still the question

It's been a seven-year battle to save this bridge, and now one local group is taking it to a judge.  Erie CPR has been asking Erie City council for another public hearing on the demolition of the McBride Viaduct, but the council hasn't responded, so CPR hopes a judge will force their hand.  

It resembles a scene from a post-apocalyptic movie:  an abandoned bridge, littered with overgrown weeds, overturned shopping carts, and graffiti.  But, one Erie group sees the McBride Viaduct as so much more.

Erie CPR (Connect Plus Respect) has been trying to stop PennDOT and the city from demolishing the bridge, instead, revamping it into a pedestrian walkway.  They feel the effort has fallen on deaf ears, and now they are taking it to the courts, preparing to file an injunction to delay the demolition and get another public hearing.

"All these years, we've been providing them all flaws in the process to arrive at demolition so lacking any movement from council to give us a public hearing, our only recourse are the courts," says Adam Trott, President of Erie CPR.

But, Curtis Jones, Jr., of Erie City Council, says, "it was kind of a flash in the pan comment made earlier so we will continue to hear more about that I'm sure as they move forward with that process". 

The bridge was closed in 2010 because of structural concerns.  Trott says the repairs to keep it open for pedestrians would cost less than the demolition.  "The bridge is not falling down, it's the skin is falling off that structure.  The soundness of the structure gets exaggerated when you take vehicles off, for just bikes and pedestrians that load is insignificant."

The main concern of Erie CPR is safety; keeping the bridge as a safe pathway for pedestrians connecting neighborhoods.  We spent an hour at the bridge today, four people traveled across.

Erie City Council, also concerned with safety, says a bigger concern is pedestrians traveling east and west crossing East Avenue and the Bayfront Connector on 12th Street.  Jones says, "I think that is where the safety concerns are, very wide, very fast traffic very several avenues to left turns, red lights yellow lights, those sorts of things".

Once the paperwork is filed, a judge will have the final say on whether or not to grant that injunction allowing CPR to get the public's input on saving this bridge one last time.

Trott says it will cost roughly $3 million to repair the bridge as a walkway and just over $3 million for demolition alone.  The Erie CPR Group is willing to raise the funds but says they can't if a project is slated for demo.

PennDOT's most updated project schedule shows demolition bids will be accepted this month and work could begin in early 2018.

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