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Newport to sue over 19th Street Bridge

City attorney says OCTA violated its own policies when it didn't get a consensus from all the cities involved.

March 28, 2012|By Sarah Peters

The Newport Beach City Council authorized the city attorney on Tuesday to pursue litigation against the Orange County Transportation Authority regarding a recent decision to remove the 19th Street Bridge from the county's master plan.

The OCTA Board of Directors voted March 12 to remove the controversial proposed bridge that would connect Costa Mesa to Huntington Beach over the Santa Ana River.

"The city of Newport Beach is very concerned by the OCTA's decision to unilaterally delete the 19th Street Bridge from the Master Plan of Arterial Highways without conducting any environmental analysis or taking into consideration the appropriate mitigation measures necessary for this significant change in policy direction," City Attorney Aaron Harp wrote in an email to the Daily Pilot on Wednesday.

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Filings had yet to be submitted to the Orange County Superior Court as of Wednesday afternoon.

Typically, all affected parties — in this instance Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa — have to agree before OCTA can take action. However, in this case the board moved forward, citing the improbability of funding the $150-million project, the complicated permitting process and opposition from many residents.

Many in Costa Mesa and Huntington opposed the bridge, but Newport residents have long argued it would relieve traffic, should it ever get built.

"The city is hopeful that by initiation of litigation, the Orange County Transportation Authority will reconsider its action, follow its own procedures for consideration of significant policy changes by coordinating with local jurisdictions regarding major decisions, and conduct [an] environmental analysis that considers appropriate mitigation measures in conformance with the California Environmental Quality Act," the statement from Harp continued.

OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik said the OCTA would comment once further information was gathered regarding the litigation.

Staff Writer Lauren Williams also contributed to this article.

sarah.peters@latimes.com

Twitter: @speters01

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