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Few steps have been taken in bridge battle

July 26, 2003

Deirdre Newman

The city's efforts to break a deadlock over two bridges it wants

eventually removed from county plans has not gotten the rosy

reception city leaders had hoped for.

The two bridges would connect Gisler Avenue to Garfield Street,

which divides Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley, and 19th Street

to Banning Avenue in Huntington Beach.

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On Monday, the City Council approved a plan that would keep the

bridges on county plans for now and establish a series of steps that

would end with the bridges' removal. That would only happen after the

cities involved develop and put into place measures that would

alleviate the traffic problems the bridges are meant to solve and the

county deems those measures successful.

None of the three cities that Costa Mesa needs to agree to the

plan -- Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Fountain Valley -- have

done so.

That puts Costa Mesa in the vulnerable position of having the

decision on the bridges made by the Orange County Transportation

Authority.

City officials assert that their plan provides the authority with

the necessary ammunition to see things their way.

"We believe we have given [the authority] enough information for

them to easily make the decision to delete the bridges," said Bill

Morris, director of public services. "All of our environmental work

and traffic reports and numbers should make it an easy decision for

them."

City officials oppose the bridges because they believe they would

harm several nearby residential areas, schools and parks. They are

also concerned that the bridges could harm wetlands and biological

resources along the Santa Ana River bed.

The four cities agreed to work toward deleting the bridges when

they started the Santa Ana River Crossings Study in 1993. But in

December, Fountain Valley requested grant funds from the authority

for preliminary and final design of the Gisler Avenue bridge.

In response, the Costa Mesa City Council passed an emergency

resolution to fast-track a solution that would be amenable to all

parties.

The solution passed Monday calls for reiterating the city's

opposition to the bridges, adopting measures that could eliminate the

need for the bridges and asking the authority to certify the Santa

Ana River Crossing environmental report.

It also says the bridges should be kept on the master plan for

now, but that the participating cities should not assume the two

bridges will be built when considering long-term planning studies

developments and land-use assumptions.

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