After decades of debate, Orange County transportation officials have finally and formally killed plans to build a bridge across the Santa Ana River, a span that would have been a new link between Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach.
The Orange County Transportation Authority board voted unanimously late Monday to remove the proposed 19th Street Bridge from the county's master plan, where it has been since the 1950s. The bridge would have connected Costa Mesa's 19th Street to Huntington Beach's Banning Avenue, potentially relieving traffic on the river's other crossings.
Opponents of the estimated $150-million bridge have repeatedly cited environmental, noise and traffic concerns.
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 issue came up for a vote during a prolonged board meeting.
"I'm really proud to deliver this result as one of my last official acts," Hansen said. "I think we've made the right decision."
Costa Mesa Mayor Eric Bever, who is not an OCTA board member but has been involved with the issue, 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 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, Huntington Beach and Newport Beach — and other entities, OCTA spokesman Joel Zlotnik said.
But on Monday, the conclusion was the same: Erase the 19th Street Bridge.
Dean Reinemann said he's campaigned against the bridge since the early 1990s, in part to protect the quality of life at his Westside Costa Mesa home where he says he has a 213-degree view where "you can look out and nothing gets in the way."
"That's very hard to get anywhere in Orange County, especially in Costa Mesa," Reinemann said.
Even though the bridge was unlikely to ever be built, 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.