By Bradley Zint
5:39 PM PST, November 26, 2012
The Orange County Transportation Authority board unanimously voted Monday to remove the proposed 19th Street Bridge from the county's master plan, a move that ends decades of debate for the contentious connector over the Santa Ana River.
The bridge, which has been in the county books since the 1950s, would have connected the ends of Costa Mesa's 19th Street to Huntington Beach's Banning Avenue, potentially relieving traffic over the river's three other connectors: Adams Avenue and Victoria Street in Costa Mesa and Coast Highway in Newport Beach.
Opponents, mostly from Costa Mesa and Huntington, have repeatedly cited environmental, noise and traffic concerns over the estimated $150-million bridge.
Eleven OCTA directors — including outgoing Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen — voted in favor of removing the bridge from the plan. Five members were absent by the time the vote came around during the prolonged meeting at OCTA's headquarters in Orange.
"I'm really proud to deliver this result as one of one of my last official acts," Hansen said. "I think we've made the right decision."
In an email Monday, he called the result positive "proof that you can make an impact through activism."
Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever, who is not an OCTA board member but has been involved with the issue and proposed expansion of the San Diego (405) Freeway, said in an email that he's "happy that we finally have closure on this contentious issue, and have preserved the quiet enjoyment of the neighborhood."
The board's vote came after OCTA's Regional Planning and Highways Committee voted 6 to 1 on Nov. 5 to recommend eliminating the bridge from the county's plan, officially known as Master Plan of Arterial Highways.
The board had voted to remove the bridge from the plan in March, but later decided, amid legal threats, to work toward alternatives with the affected cities — Costa Mesa, Newport and Huntington — and other entities, said OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik.
Monday's vote was the board reaching the same conclusion as in March: Erase the 19th Street Bridge, Zlotnik said.
Dean Reinemann, a Costa Mesa resident who's been involved since the early 1990s in efforts against building the bridge, attended the OCTA meeting.
At stake was a quality of his Westside home near Marina View Park: a view of some 213 degrees, where "you can look out and nothing gets in the way," he said.
"That's very hard to get anywhere in Orange County, especially in Costa Mesa," he said.
Even though the bridge was unlikely to be built for myriad reasons, he said, it was troublesome having it "hang over your head" all the time, even if it was just a "dotted line across the river" indicating a future crossing.
He called the decision a little anticlimactic, but still cause for celebration for a saga that's been moving at "glacier speed" for years.
"These things are not like a football game where everybody jumps around and celebrates," he said, adding that "it's not a letdown, but there's no fireworks show."