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OCTA removes 19th Street Bridge from plan

Move ends years of studies, controversy about the potential bridge over the Santa Ana River that would connect Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.

March 12, 2012|By Mike Reicher

ORANGE — The Orange County Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted Monday to strike the proposed 19th Street Bridge from the county's master plan.

The move effectively ends decades of studies and controversy about the potential bridge that would have linked Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach over the Santa Ana River.

Environmentalists and 19th Street residents pleaded Monday to eliminate the bridge, as Huntington Beach Mayor and OCTA Director Don Hansen ushered through the unusual vote to change the county's long-standing master plan.

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Newport Beach leaders were the lone holdouts among the three most affected cities; Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach opposed the bridge. Under the county's typical procedures, all three would have to agree to abandon the bridge idea.

But OCTA directors agreed that the bridge was unlikely to ever be built because of its forecasted $150-million cost, the difficulties in obtaining permits from state and federal regulators, and intense opposition from nearby residents.

The vote was unanimous, except for OCTA Director and County Supervisor Janet Nguyen, who abstained.

"We're feeling very relieved," said Sandie Frankiewicz, who owns two homes on 19th Street, one of which would have likely been demolished to widen the street for the bridge.

Officials from Huntington and Newport said Monday that they would discuss ways to improve the existing roadways to accommodate the anticipated population growth.

"The city of Huntington Beach is very much aware that the elimination of this bridge has consequences," Hansen said.

More traffic on Coast Highway was one of the reasons Newport City Councilman Steve Rosansky revived talks about the bridge last year. Since the early 1990s, residents and officials in Costa Mesa and Huntington have worked to scrap the bridge, but Newport kept protesting, causing the process to stall.

Rosansky and Newport Deputy Public Works Director Dave Webb spoke at the meeting in an attempt to keep the bridge talks alive and to obligate the other cities to make traffic fixes. They hoped to replicate a process that OCTA undertook up the river with the Gisler-Garfield avenues bridge, another proposed Costa Mesa-Huntington connector that faced a similar predicament.

After they couldn't agree to build or remove that bridge, Huntington, Costa Mesa and Fountain Valley officials decided about five years ago to improve existing streets near Gisler, instead of building the bridge.

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