On March 12, The New York Times ran an article on their front page about Erie. Unfortunately, it was not a positive piece. The online article is titled “In Erie, One City Block Is a Trek of Disrespect.”
The subject matter of this article is the McBride Viaduct, a bridge that connects two low-income neighborhoods on the east side of the city. The bridge goes over railway lines and a scrap yard and for many years served as the main way people traveled that part of the city.
The article goes on to say that Erie was “ranked the worst city in the country for African-Americans.” This phrase led to a link from 24/7 Wall St. that was a list of the worst cities. Sure enough, Erie was ranked the worst.
As someone who has lived in Erie my whole life, the data presented in the 24/7 Wall St. report was shocking. I knew that Erie had a large racial gap in terms of wealth distribution, but I was unaware that it was that bad. For those of you new to Erie, you are probably wondering why the McBride Viaduct, a bridge, is relevant to this topic.
Like I said before, the viaduct connects two eastside neighborhoods and it is under attack by the city. It was closed years ago to motor vehicle traffic due to structural issues and is on the list to be demolished. If it were to be demolished, people would no longer be able to use the bridge to travel across the dangerous area.
Instead, the plan by the city is to reroute the pedestrian traffic to the Bayfront Connector.
This road is close enough to Mercyhurst that I presume many students have had the opportunity to ride on it. The Bayfront Connector links the Bayfront Parkway, and the east bayfront, to the far east side of the city all the way to Penn State Behrend and Interstate 90. The purpose of the road is to shuttle people from the affluent suburbs through the city without having to pass
directly through the “bad side,” and primarily black, side of town.
The Bayfront Connector has disrupted walking traffic of students trying to get to school and has had a negative impact on businesses on nearby roads that are no longer used (think Radiator Springs from “Cars” after the fancy new highway went in).
I have known an elementary school student that was actually the victim of a hit and run on the Connector last summer. He was in the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh due to severe head trauma and many people did not think he would make it.
The New York Times article states that a group of students at Gannon University have taken up the McBride Viaduct as a hangout spot. I believe that Mercyhurst should join their cause.
If we could promote the McBride Viaduct as not just a pedestrian path but something where people would want to hangout (like a park), the city might be more willing to repair the bridge.
The health effects of turning the viaduct into a park, emulating the Highline Park in New York City, are very positive.
If the McBride Viaduct were in a white neighborhood, I do believe the city would be more willing to repair the bridge. It is everyone’s responsibility to make the place we live a better place and if students can convince the city to repair the bridge, we should do so.