The bridge is back
Nine years ago Chico voters turned down a bridge over Comanche Creek. Now a new proposal resurrects it.
The special election of June 5, 2001, was a watershed in Chico politics. A small group of determined citizens had taken on a conservative City Council that had approved a $3 million road-and-bridge project called the Otterson Drive Extension. The project would have gone right down the middle of a narrow 14-acre riparian corridor along Comanche Creek in south Chico. It would have been a landscaped entrance to a private business park, at public expense.
The only issue on the ballot, the referendum asked whether the Chico General Plan should be amended to allow the construction of a bridge and roadway connecting Otterson Drive and the intersection of Park Avenue and East Park Avenue.
The vote was 55 percent no to 45 percent yes. Despite an expensive campaign by business and developer interests, the voters of Chico saw that this was a bridge to nowhere.
Unfortunately, as the current City Council is adopting the new 2030 General Plan, the same old forces are trying to push through a similar road-and-bridge project. Renamed the West Park Avenue Extension, and perhaps crossing farther upstream, it would intrude into the riparian corridor and cross the creek. Noise and fumes from cars and diesel trucks would still dominate the greenway.
The questions and arguments against the project are basically the same as they were 10 years ago:
• Should Chico sacrifice its last wild greenway and spend millions of dollars on a third entrance to a privately owned business park?
• The limited redevelopment money available is needed for more-urgent problems.
• It has not been proven the project would actually lead to more real jobs, and the business park representative has said the park will build out with or without the bridge.
• The project would not solve traffic problems; other, less costly improvements could do so.
• There are two emergency access routes to the park already.
The inclusion of the West Park Avenue Extension in the updated general plan is an insult to the democratic process and to the thousands of Chico voters who have already rejected this project.
Please come to the general plan hearings this Saturday, July 24, 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the council chambers or write or e-mail council members at www.chico.ca.us. Check out the updated general plan at www.chicogeneralplan.com to see what other road projects, like the Ivy Street Extension, might affect your neighborhood.