Despite passionate public outcry from Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa residents about revived talks of the proposed 19th Street Bridge, Newport Beach council members are slow to distance themselves completely from the project.
Councilwoman Leslie Daigle is requesting the city reexamine the bridge — which would alleviate traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway and Victoria Street bridges — ahead of either reaffirming the city's position to support it or come out against it.
"We're taking it up as an accommodation to our neighbors in H.B. who are impacted by traffic," Daigle wrote in an email. "I indicated to them Newport may affirm their position, but I would get them a yes, no or alternative solution."
Newport Beach has stood alone in continuing to support the county's longtime plan to put a bridge linking across the Santa Ana River Costa Mesa's Westside and Huntington's Banning Avenue community. It would take Newport switching stances, though, to have the bridge removed from the county's master plan.
Just a few months ago, the tide was rumored to be turning toward building the bridge, politicians say.
Newport Beach Councilman Steve Rosansky met with Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach and Costa Mesa Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer last year to talk about the project.
But what was said in private and what's said in public can be two vastly different things.
At a Huntington Beach town-hall meeting earlier this month, Moorlach blamed the entire thing on Rosansky, who is termed out and has nothing to lose, electability-wise. Moorlach said he "fought" the bridge nearly 20 years ago.
The Costa Mesa City Council recently took a public stance against the bridge as well.
"It's clear Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach are not willing to pursue the opportunity like I thought they were," Rosansky said.
More than 700 Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach residents attended the Huntington Beach meeting to oppose the project. Bridge supporters there could be counted on one hand.
Still, Newport Beach council members say there should be an alternative to the bridge if they're going to come out and oppose it.
"I don't see us eliminating the bridge without some alternative measures and being assured that they are going to work as a substitute for the bridge," Rosansky said. "Anything besides [the bridge] is sub-optimal, but could be satisfactory."
"If there's other solutions, I'd be interested in what someone would propose," Councilman Ed Selich said.
"There's so much I don't know. I'm certainly open to looking at the removal of it," Mayor Nancy Gardner said. "I haven't made up my mind about it, but I think it's good. I think it's something we should bring up. Obviously, we want things to be reasonably planned for greatest effectiveness."
Daigle said the council could bring the issue up at its second meeting in February.