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ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

The debate over the future of two pedestrian bridges along Yale Avenue has turned Irvine upside down for months and now will be voted on in the June 5 election in Measures B and C. Perhaps one good reason for this is that the arguments have approached the heart of what a planned community is all about.

Planned communities provide the opportunity to avoid mistakes that older places endured because of haphazard growth. The irony in the Yale overpasses situation is that even the best-laid designs of planned communities may not come to fruition right away. When that happens, and a community takes stock of the original scheme, there’s bound to be some difference of opinion over whether to implement the basic game plan or continue with what you have. The right question to ask is, if it ain’t broke, does it need fixing?

That’s the picture along Yale Avenue. As Irvine developed, overpasses at a railroad crossing and at the San Diego Freeway never were upgraded for general vehicular traffic. Today, they are used only by pedestrians, bicycles and emergency vehicles, and Yale Avenue serves residential traffic.

Proponents of a plan to allow the construction of two-lane vehicular bridges argue that the circulation system of Irvine always had called for cars to go through. Opponents say Irvine’s residential village concept is well-served now.

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The difference is so fundamental that both are seeking amendments in the general plan of the city to get their way: one to establish that vehicular bridges can be built when the City Council decides to build them; the other, to ensure that the overpasses remain limited to their current use.

So who’s right? The people who want the bridges to stay as they are.

Nothing in Irvine is very old, but these are the oldest neighborhoods, the ones for which such a dramatic change in traffic patterns is bound to raise safety questions. Thousands of children travel daily to many schools in this area. When a bridge opened over I-5 at Yale Avenue, there was an increase in accidents. People walk and ride bicycles to parks and bike paths in the area. The dynamics of the way Irvine has evolved would be dangerously altered.

It would be one thing if Yale Avenue were needed to take the burden off other main arteries. That might make it worth the considerable cost the city would incur to actually change the bridges. But pro-vehicular bridge forces haven’t made a very convincing case of that need. So there’s no compelling reason to change now. Vote No on Measure B; vote Yes on Measure C.

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