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Newport pushes for 19th Street Bridge alternatives

Horse trails in Santa Ana Heights and the proposed Marina Park lighthouse are also on Tuesday's City Council agenda.

September 10, 2012|By Mike Reicher

As county traffic planners study the proposed 19th Street Bridge, Newport Beach city officials are lobbying to win street improvements, in case the bridge idea is permanently scrapped.

They recently requested that the county eliminate some roads originally envisioned for Banning Ranch, as the developer's current plan does not include them, according to a report for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Taking these streets out of the study, in addition to the bridge, would presumably increase traffic on other streets and bolster Newport's arguments.

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City officials want neighboring cities or other groups to pay for any road construction projects.

Politicians, environmentalists and many vocal residents in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach have been trying for decades to erase the bridge — which would span the Santa Ana River and connect Costa Mesa to Huntington Beach — from the county master plan. They contend it would infringe on wildlife habitat and destroy their communities with increased traffic and the taking of property by eminent domain.

Newport's public works officials and attorneys are working to get "well-defined mitigation measures, funding commitments, and a firm schedule and guarantee for implementation of the mitigation measure," the staff report says.

Representatives from the cities of Newport, Costa Mesa and Huntington have been meeting biweekly since July with county and Orange County Transportation Authority officials.

Thus far, discussions have focused on the study's assumptions, the report says. Stakeholders agreed that some roads will likely never be built, even though they are on the county's master plan.

Also, OCTA is working on a plan to ensure any traffic improvements will be funded and built, the staff report says. The final county report is expected by Nov. 8.

Newport City Councilman Steve Rosansky revived talks last year about building the bridge, a topic which had been dormant for more than a decade.

But after public opposition, Huntington Beach Mayor and OCTA Commissioner Don Hansen pushed through a proposal to delete the bridge from the master plan. It passed the OCTA board unanimously, even though Newport Beach still supported the bridge and OCTA policy required consensus among the affected cities.

Newport threatened to sue. Two community groups, Friends of the Bridge and Friends of Dolores, appealed the OCTA decision. The board rejected the appeal, but still reversed its previous decision.

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