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19th Street Bridge talks revived

Long thought dead, talks of thoroughfare between Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach resume.

October 01, 2011|By Mike Reicher

Elected officials have restarted talks about the 19th Street Bridge, a perennially controversial proposal that would connect Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.

County Supervisor John Moorlach quietly revived discussions among council members — one each from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley — who would have to sign off on the plans.

Bridge advocates say it would help traffic flow throughout the area and could enhance Westside Costa Mesa. Opponents, who have been trying to scrap bridge plans for more than 30 years, argue that it would worsen traffic and noise in residential areas, and would harm sensitive environmental resources.

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"As good neighbors, we're going to take a hard look at it," Moorlach said. "We're at least all in the same room, and we're all debating, and listening to all the pros and cons."

The latest talks began in late August when Newport Beach Councilman Steve Rosansky prodded Moorlach to organize a meeting among the four cities' leaders.

Rosansky has long supported building the bridge, and because he'll be termed out in 2012, he decided to push for it now.

"It really opens up a lot of possibilities for making the flow of traffic better for [Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa]," Rosansky said.

Past studies have found that a bridge could relieve pressure on Newport Boulevard, for example, but could bring more traffic to 19th Street and areas near the proposed span.

Two major studies — one in the early 1990s and another in the early 2000s — were quashed after the Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach city councils opposed the idea.

Residents of the Freedom homes, a tract north of 19th Street and west of Placentia Avenue, were staunchly opposed. Besides traffic and noise, they decried the potential demolition of homes needed to widen 19th Street.

But the new Costa Mesa City Council members may be open to the bridge.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who has attended the talks with city Chief Executive Tom Hatch, said he thought the county should at least study the proposal to see if it would improve traffic flow, or simply shift problems from some intersections to others. He mentioned current congestion on Victoria Street and Adams Avenue.

"We want some answers," Righeimer said.

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