Schember comments on plan to demolish McBride Viaduct

Erie Mayor Joe Schember takes a position on the future of the McBride Viaduct.  He is taking PennDOT's side, saying the bridge must be demolished.  So, does this mean it's the end of the discussion?

According to supporters, this is not the end of the fight.  The future of the bridge has been a topic of discussion going on for eight years now.

Demolition is on the books for this year and it now has the mayor's blessing to proceed.  The demolition of the McBride Viaduct is part of a $7.5 million PennDOT plan and, despite the push from supporters to delay the demo and open it up for more public discussion, Mayor Joe Schember says it needs to come down.  "I believe the right thing to do for the city is to get it torn down; it would just cost too much to repair it."

But, no one has been able to pin down exactly what that cost is.  "It's in such bad shape that to fix it would cost, there are different estimates, but three to six million," says Schember.  "Now, we can redirect one million dollars of the demolition money, but where is the other millions going to come from?"

Schember estimates saving the bridge would increase property taxes for one year by $2.5 million, that's $250 for every $100,000.  "I don't think the taxpayers of Erie are ready to do that," he says.

Freda Tepfer, Resource Specialist for the local group Erie CPR Connect + Respect, says that cost is inflated and the organization would work to find grants to keep this bridge which many see as a necessity for pedestrian safety.  

Bridge supporters say the make-up of the intersections makes the viaduct significantly safer for pedestrians.  Tepfer says the slip lane is something the intersection of East 12th and Bayfront is lacking.  

Schember believes the north and southbound foot traffic is safe along the Bayfront and he's redirecting his concern to the east to west.  Tepfer doesn't see a change for pedestrians anytime soon, saying, "if they have things to improve it; why haven't they done that so far?"

Erie CPR has threatened a lawsuit to delay the bridge's demolition to force additional public discussion.  That lawsuit has yet to be filed.  

There is still a town hall meeting scheduled for next Tuesday at the Jefferson Educational Society on the McBride Viaduct, held by Erie CPR.

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