McBride Viaduct / East Ave. Bridge


East 12th St. & East Ave., Erie, PA

Erie & the Viaduct  The City of Erie, PA is located on the shores of Lake Erie. The city is divided by busy railroad tracks running east and west, parallel to the lake. Ninety years ago, after a child was killed crossing the tracks at East Ave., the McBride Viaduct was built. The map's red marker shows the approximate location of the Viaduct, adjacent to Liberty Iron & Metal.

Highway through the City  In 2005, the city's Eastside neighborhoods were divided by Rt. 290, a new four-lane highway built near the Viaduct. Constructed at a cost of $180 million, Rt. 290 gives suburban commuters and interstate visitors easy access to the waterfront.  

Viaduct Closure  In 2010, the Viaduct was closed to vehicles, frustrating drivers but creating a much-used pedestrian and bike artery connecting neighborhoods. The city hired 5 traffic engineers to figure out what to do with the Viaduct. These men proposed three alternatives (fix it for $10 million, build a new one for $25 million, or tear it down for $1.2 million.) They never considered keeping the Viaduct for its present use as a key non-vehicular route.

Demolition Plans  Instead of $1.2 million, the city is now poised to spend $3 to $4.5 million dollars to tear down the Viaduct, which would force pedestrians and bicyclists to a narrow path along the highway.

Unsafe Route to School  This demolition would force middle-school children to walk along Rt. 290, next to speeding 22 ton tractor trailers and distracted drivers. Erie children have already been critically injured at another Rt. 290 intersection. In addition, the new route will force children to cross two busy, unprotected intersections.

Logic of Keeping the Viaduct   Stabilizing the Viaduct for non-vehicular use is cost-effective (under $3 million), will not impact the city's insurance and will not be difficult to maintain. Saving the bridge has the added benefit of creating both temporary construction jobs, and long-term private sector employment.

Following the Buki Plan  Saving the Viaduct follows three principals laid out in the new Erie Refocused Comprehensive Plan by Charles Buki: investing in existing assets; prioritizing pedestrians; and focusing dollars (there are 8 other community projects proposed or underway near the Viaduct. 

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ERIE READER ESSAY: The Buki Plan, the Viaduct and ErieCPR