The development firm C. J. Segerstrom & Sons is asking the city to waive $1.5 million in fees assessed against it for traffic improvements so that the money can be used to build a pedestrian bridge over Bristol Street.
If the City Council deems the proposed bridge a major traffic improvement, it could forgive $1.5 million in "trip fees" charged to Segerstrom for every car entering or leaving the area.
Fees for vehicles entering and leaving a development are assessed against companies whose developments increase traffic north of Baker Street and are used to pay for traffic improvements in those areas.
"We're saying that the bridge is a traffic improvement even though it isn't a street and therefore should be part of what we pay for in traffic development," said Malcolm Ross, Segerstrom's director of planning and design.
The council has already approved construction of the bridge, which will span 600 feet from a raised area at the South Coast Plaza Town Center office and entertainment complex to the South Coast Plaza shopping center parking lot, between Sears and Birraporetti's restaurant.
The council will consider deducting the $1.5-million cost of the bridge from Segerstrom's trip fees at its April 15 meeting or at a later date, Ross said.
Segerstrom is responsible for street projects in the South Coast Plaza area, including a $2-million project to widen Bristol Street, a $300,000 study on street improvements in the area, including improving the ramps to the San Diego Freeway from Bristol Street, and the proposed bridge.
In addition to forgiving the trip fees, the city must decide whether to eliminate crosswalks on Bristol Street at Anton Boulevard and Town Center Drive after the bridge is built, City Engineer David Sorge said.
A study financed by Segerstrom found that 199 people crossed Bristol Street at Town Center Drive at noon, and 265 crossed during a one-hour period on an evening when there was an event at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A count taken at Bristol Street and Anton Boulevard showed that 171 people crossed there at noon and 111 crossed in the evening.
"The city is interested in having (the bridge), but the question is where are the pedestrians crossing in that area," Sorge said.
A Segerstrom consultant is studying destinations of pedestrians who cross those intersections. The city hopes to use the information to determine whether to eliminate the crosswalks.
During meetings with city officials, Ross also said the bridge could be used in the future to hook up with the light-rail system planned for central Orange County. Ross said, however, that final designs have not been made and that plans for the light-rail system to stop at the bridge have not been determined.