Mayor Bob Filner drops plans to close Cabrillo Bridge at Balboa Park

Filner wanted to remove cars from Plaza de Panama

SAN DIEGO - The mayor's office has dropped plans to close a bridge that carries vehicle traffic over state Route 163 and into the center of Balboa Park before Caltrans begins a seismic retrofit project early next year, according to a city report presented to the San Diego City Council Tuesday.

Mayor Bob Filner's plan to shut off traffic on the Cabrillo Bridge on weekends and holidays this fall -- part of his plan to remove cars from the Plaza de Panama and the Plaza de California -- had been opposed by neighbors and leaders of park cultural institutions.

Peter Comiskey, the director of the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership, told the council members that an early closing of the bridge would have had a "devastating impact" on museums in the area.

Parking spaces have already been removed from the plazas and replaced by tables, chairs and umbrellas. Traffic runs through a narrow path between the bridge and the parking lot behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

Council President Todd Gloria said the idea of closing the bridge before or after the Caltrans project has both supporters and critics.

The delay in the bridge closure gives "additional time to work with the community to figure out how to maybe implement this in a way that hopefully the majority of folks will support."

The changes in the plazas made to date have been positive in increasing their use, but have also made it difficult for large trucks to reach area museums and limited access to the disabled, Gloria said.

According to city staff, disabled parking spaces that were moved out of the plazas are being re-installed in the nearby Alcazar Gardens parking lot. Also, trams purchased by the city to move people around the park should be ready for use by the end of summer.

Francisco Estrada, the mayor's liaison to the City Council, said the city will monitor the number of visits to park cultural institutions, and count cars going through the park, and make adjustments to their plans if necessary.

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