On Saturday, I started my weekend the same as every other: lacing up my running shoes and dashing through Erie with the women’s cross country team.
We started by running through Perry Square onto East Sixth Street, jumped onto the sidewalk along the Bayfront Connector and eventually hopped onto the McBride Viaduct, a hidden gem in the city.
For those who are unfamiliar, the McBride Viaduct is a 1,170-foot overpass bridge that takes pedestrians above a set of CSX train tracks and connects East 12th and East 19th streets.
The McBride Viaduct has a lengthy history in Erie, but its inception is not a particularly happy one.
The structure was constructed in 1938 and dedicated to honor Monsignor Lawrence McBride. He was one of the community leaders who fought for the construction of the bridge after a child was killed while trying to cross the train tracks.
In June 2010, the bridge was closed to all vehicular traffic, but nevertheless, it is still highly trafficked by community members who use it daily to safely cross from one part of town to the other. Many of these users are children on their way to school.
Our footsteps on Saturday did not stand out among dozens of others who crossed the snowy bridge in the week before.
So, what’s the problem? The City of Erie wants to tear the viaduct down.
What’s worse? It hasn’t agreed to hold a public hearing to let community members give their input on the bridge before acting.
Last Tuesday, a local organization, Erie Connect + Respect (CPR), held a public forum at the Jefferson Educational Society where a professional architect, former elected official and community members shared their thoughts on the viaduct.
Local architect Adam Trott said that for as little as $1.7 million, essential repairs can be implemented to stabilize the skin of the bridge and make it safe for those who use it each day to cross.
Former County Councilman Jay Breneman spoke confidently on the way these funds can be generated without tax increases.
Numerous community members gave support for saving the viaduct, aruging that saving the bridge is a matter of socioeconomic prosperity. If the viaduct is demolished, individuals living on the east side will lose a vital connection to the rest of the city.
Although he wasn’t in attendance, Charles Buki, president of the organization that recently completed Erie’s comprehensive plan, released a public statement on Nov. 22 in which he wrote, “I strongly recommend a pause to the planned demolition of the McBride Viaduct.”
The recent meeting left me motivated to spark change, but I am incredibly unsettled by the lack of attendance by local decision makers.
Thank you to the three city councilwomen who intently listened last week. Please take the concerns of your constituents back to your four co-workers and Mayor Joe Schember who did not.
Erie, I love you, but we cannot keep making decisions without listening to the voices of the community. I am begging you to be better in 2018.
To learn more about the viaduct and how to get involved in this fight, visit www.erieviaduct.com.