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United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
October 29, 2018, Decided; October 29, 2018, Filed
Civil Action No. 18-124 Erie
[*536] MEMORANDUM OPINION
This civil action concerns the planned demolition of the East Avenue Bridge, [*537] which is owned by the City of Erie and commonly known as the "McBride Viaduct." Compl. ¶¶23, 29, Doc. 1. The case was commenced on April 30, 2018 by Plaintiffs Erie CPR1 and Erie CPR members Beary Clark, Harry Euell, Michael Keys, Judy Lynch, Minister Luchetta Manus, Reverend Charles Mock,2 Cynthia Muhammad, Noel Remigio, Abdulla Washington, Adam Trott, Lisa Austin, and Taquanta Gray (collectively, "Plaintiffs"). In their complaint, Plaintiffs request the entry of an order enjoining the Viaduct's removal and granting Plaintiffs a public hearing for the purpose of challenging the demolition plan. To that end, Plaintiffs have filed a motion for preliminary injunction (ECF 3).
[**2] In June and July 2018, following a delay in service of the Complaint, the "City Defendants" - i.e., the City of Erie, Pennsylvania (at times herein, the "City"), Erie Mayor Joseph Schember ("Schember"), and the City Council of Erie (the "City Council") -- and the "State Defendants" - i.e., the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation ("PennDOT"), the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission ("PA PUC" or the "Commission") -- filed their respective motions to dismiss the Complaint (ECF Nos. 21 and 29). Plaintiffs then sought, and received, an extension of time for purposes of filing their brief in opposition to the State Defendants' motions to dismiss, which was submitted on August 2, 2018 (ECF 35).
On September 18, 2018, the undersigned was assigned this case, following appointment as a United States District Judge. The Court's initial intent, particularly upon learning of the City's imminent demolition plans, was to schedule a hearing on the preliminary injunction. To that end, the Court held several telephonic status calls to discuss the procedural posture of the case and the practical logistics for scheduling either a preliminary injunction hearing or a final hearing on the merits. [**3] (ECF Nos. 38, 40, 41.) In the meantime, however, because the pending motions to dismiss were potentially dispositive and could moot the issue of injunctive relief, the Court undertook a careful and thorough review of the pleadings in light of Defendants' pending Rule 12(b)(6) motions. The Court also carefully considered which materials outside of the pleadings could be appropriately considered under Rule 12(b)(6) without the need for converting the Defendants' motion to a Rule 56 motion and thereby creating further delay.
The gravamen of the Complaint is that the City should maintain the Viaduct for continued pedestrian and bicycle use, so as to maintain connectivity between certain Eastside communities and provide what Plaintiffs consider to be a safer and preferable corridor of travel. Plaintiffs fault the City and State Defendants for engaging in a decision-making process that, in their view, involved insufficient outreach to the affected community members. As a result, Plaintiffs maintain, the Defendants failed to understand the importance and utility of the Viaduct as a corridor for non-vehicular traffic. Plaintiffs also fault the Defendants for an alleged lack of transparency which, they claim, precluded interested [**4] citizens and organizations like Erie CPR from having a full and fair opportunity to present a case for continued use of the Viaduct as a corridor for walkers and bicyclists. At bottom, Plaintiffs seek an order from this Court that would require the Defendants [*538] to abandon their demolition plans and hold a hearing at which Plaintiffs can state their case for maintaining the Viaduct and the decision can be considered anew. In the course of its analysis, the Court concluded that the Plaintiffs' claims do not establish a basis for the relief they are seeking. Accordingly, for the reasons stated herein, Defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint will be granted.
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343 F. Supp. 3d 531 *; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184971 **; 2018 WL 5442448
ERIE CPR, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, et al., Defendants.
Subsequent History: Motion granted by CPR v. Pennsylvania PUC, 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 40655 (3d Cir., Mar. 7, 2019)
Prior History: ERIE CPR v. PA Dep't of Transp., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 96559, 2018 WL 2766107 (W.D. Pa., June 8, 2018)
Viaduct, demolition, bridge, Erie, environmental, Connector, pedestrian, neighborhood, Feasibility, intentional discrimination, Street, regulations, demolish, immunity, traffic, repair, allegations, transportation, motion to dismiss, public meeting, discriminatory, Interchange, involvement, crossing, projects, Highway, plans, public hearing, recommendations, meetings