Mayor Joe Schember: We want to assure residents that no decision has been made regarding the Kahkwa Bridge/Ravine Drive Project
Erie Mayor Joe Schember, along with his Public Works Team, explained that no decision has been made regarding the Kahkwa Bridge/Ravine Drive Project. “We realize that there is some confusion over where we are in the process. Our City engineering team has been reviewing and studying options, and we assure residents that we have not yet arrived at a decision.”
“We have been monitoring the bridge, but in recent months, it has rapidly deteriorated and is ranked #1 on the list of local bridges to be funded in Erie County,” explained City Engineer Jon Tushak. While the bridge is owned by the City of Erie, Ravine Drive and Ravine Park are owned by the Erie-Western PA Port Authority. The two entities will work together, with the City of Erie in the lead role.
To justify the best use of funds, the City will undertake a feasibility study to determine the required scope of work by analyzing traffic data, benefits and costs, and collecting public input to develop a preferred alternative. To date, seven alternatives have been identified which consider demolition, rehabilitation, replacement, alternate routes, vehicular traffic, and pedestrian traffic.
The Bureau of Engineering continues to closely monitor the condition of the bridge and has also retained the services of a local structural engineer to monitor the bridge and provide a second opinion. The City has performed remediation work to stabilize and slow the deterioration until a permanent solution can be completed. Closure or weight limit on the bridge have not been required but remain future possibilities.
Further complicating this project is the fact that Ravine Drive, which travels under the Kahkwa Bridge, is the only road to about 20 single-family Ferncliff residences and the Erie Yacht Club (EYC), which supports over 1,200 members and employees. There is also public access, which is used as a kayak launching point. Residents, employees and members of the EYC, and the U.S. Postal Service have all expressed immediate concerns about driving under the bridge. In the event of an emergency situation that requires the closure of Ravine Drive due to public safety issues, there would be no access. All conceivable options to remove, repair, or replace the bridge require a “bypass” road to avoid Ravine Drive closure. As a result, an alternative access route must be constructed as soon as possible.
Two locations are being analyzed and considered for the bypass road. Final design and a cost estimate are not yet complete. “As we have been working on the required land survey, residents have come up to talk to us, and we have shared what we know at this time. We realize that residents have concerns. We appreciate their feedback, and we understand that everyone has their own perspective based on their specific vantage point. It’s our job to get all of the input, conduct the land survey, review engineering, weigh the pros and cons, and develop the best plan to maximize benefits and minimize negative impacts for all stakeholders, as a whole. That’s what we’re trying to do. Some stakeholders may have conflicting needs, so some compromises may have to be made,” said Tushak. Residents who would like to provide comment to the City Engineer should do so via the Citizen Response Center at https://go.citygro.ws/city-of-erie/erie-citizen-response-center. Mayor Schember and Tushak will also attend a neighborhood meeting this Sunday to provide an overview and listen to residents.
The field survey for two possible locations for the access road is underway. One option is from Kahkwa near Superior to Ravine Drive north of the bridge. A second option is down from Rosemont in the east branch ravine to Ravine Drive. Cost estimates, feasibility, technical, socio-economic, and all other relevant factors are being considered. When a location is decided and right-of-way is acquired from the Port Authority, in the interest of public safety, the access road will be constructed as soon as possible.
The $5 Local Use Fee from Vehicle Registrations will fund the $75,000 feasibility study and up to $165,387 for road construction, which is all that is currently available. If additional funding is required it will come from other sources. To achieve an adequate running slope on the proposed roadway, it must be about 400 feet long. The City will design and let a contract for grading, subgrade construction, drainage, and asphalt material. When the bypass road construction is complete, the threat of closure of Ravine Drive is no longer a factor. Work on the feasibility study and selection of the preferred alternative for the bridge can take due course and sufficient time. Once the study is complete and the bridge options have been fully evaluated, we will have a better understanding as to the cost of each of the options. Construction of the bypass road will be permanent to provide a second means of ingress and egress, in case of future emergencies.
Proposed Alternatives (Including but not limited to):
- No build
- Rehabilitate existing bridge
- Demolish bridge, no replacement, eliminate Kahkwa Rd
- Demolish bridge, replace with vehicular bridge
- Demolish bridge, replace with pedestrian only bridge
- Demolish bridge, change slopes and grade to 4-way intersection (slopes may be too restrictive)
- Demolish bridge, no replacement, modify Delaware to Superior and create intersection
- Others, as proposed by feasibility study
- The City needs to officially acquire land from the Port Authority.
- Build the bypass road as soon as possible.
- Conduct the feasibility study this year.
- Proceed with construction or demolition next year.