A vote this week by the Orange County Transportation Authority board assures that Costa Mesa’s illusory 19th Street Bridge will continue to live on paper until as late as November while surrounding cities find other ways to justify traffic increases.

Officials from Newport Beach agreed with Huntington Beach Mayor Don Hansen, an OCTA board member, that local opposition to the decades-long-planned 19th Street Bridge is so strong it never will be built.

But until it is removed from the county’s transportation master plan, it can be used theoretically to mitigate increased traffic from projects that actually are being constructed.

Newport Beach strongly opposed removing the bridge from the master plan. But under an agreement Hansen presented, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach have begun cooperating on other ways to lessen the impact of increased traffic.

Following the meeting, Hansen said the alternatives will likely include measures like widening existing streets or adding right turn lanes to speed up traffic flow.

When the three cities reach agreement on the alternatives, they’ll be spelled out in a memorandum of understanding and approved by all three city councils, Hansen said.

The OCTA board decided that the agreement must be approved and brought to OCTA before November. Once the alternate mitigation agreement is in place, the OCTA board will vote to affirm an earlier decision to remove the 19th Street Bridge from the county’s master plan.

In the end, said Hansen, “the bridge will be deleted. Newport will have peace of mind.”

And OCTA will have removed the threat of a lawsuit from Newport Beach by obtaining the city’s agreement to delete the so-called “phantom” bridge.

— TRACY WOOD

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