19th Street Bridge back on the radar

The proposed bridge once thought to be off the table that would link Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach is back.

Orange County Transportation Authority board members voted 17 to 0 Monday to pull back deleting the 19th Street Bridge from the county's master plan.

Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen made the motion, to which County Supervisor John Moorlach seconded. Supervisor Janet Nguyen abstained.

The change, however, may only be temporary, OCTA officials said.

The board is expected to take up the issue again within six months, after OCTA staff work on a traffic study with the county, the California Department of Transportation, and the cities of Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. The idea is to build consensus among all three affected cities where the bridge can be deleted from the plan while also having traffic concerns addressed.

Before Monday's vote, it was perhaps the closest 19th Street Bridge opponents have gotten to fulfilling their goal after decades of fighting city councils and OCTA bureaucracy.

Before the vote, residents say, every 10 years or so someone has tried to revive talks of creating the 19th Street Bridge, which would link Costa Mesa at 19th Street and Huntington Beach at Banning Avenue over the Santa Ana River. Cities for decades have failed to agree on whether to build the bridge or delete it from the county's master plan, which dates back to the 1950s.

Last year, however, was different. Newport Beach Councilman Steve Rosansky, who is termed out this year, tried to rally Moorlach and the Costa Mesa City Council to his side of having the bridge, which Newport officials believe is a solution to growing traffic concerns on Coast Highway.

The effort blew up in Rosansky's face in January, when more than 700 angry Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach residents packed an elementary school auditorium and let him, Hansen, Moorlach, Costa Mesa leaders and OCTA know how vehemently they were against the bridge.

Politicians like Moorlach, who said he was on the fence about the issue, ended up siding with the public majority.

The momentum carried over politically, and earlier this year Hansen led a charge for Huntington Beach to reiterate its opposition to the bridge — a move mirrored by the Costa Mesa City Council.

Costa Mesa took it a step further and requested that OCTA remove the bridge from the master plan, despite not having the consensus required by OCTA policy. Newport Beach remained the lone holdout.

Despite Newport's opposition, OCTA obliged Costa Mesa and deleted the bridge from the plan. Two public groups opposed that decision and appealed, arguing that the move violated OCTA policy.

The OCTA board rejected the appeal Monday, but still reversed its previous decision.

The board will discuss the traffic study and bridge during or before its Nov. 26 meeting, OCTA officials said.

In the interim, residents are again putting out a call for action.

An email sent out Tuesday to 19th Street Bridge opponents called for residents to demand that OCTA involve affected neighborhoods in its traffic study. A second email keeps alive any concerns that Bluff Road in Newport will be expanded through Banning Ranch into Costa Mesa in lieu of the bridge.


Twitter: @JosephSerna

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