Islanders want to redo bridge

Consultant says Bay Island residents have worked with peninsula neighbors to get project going.

May 21, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Bay Island residents hope to replace the aging footbridge that provides the only way to access the island except by boat, as well as the bulkheads that surround the island, but the massive project has raised concerns that the new bridge will wipe out a popular fishing spot and clog residential streets on Balboa Peninsula with construction workers.

“A project of this size would really be calamitous to the neighborhood,” said Island Avenue resident David Follett, who has lived in the Balboa Peninsula neighborhood adjacent to Bay Island for the past four years.

The footbridge leading to Bay Island that spans a small channel in Newport Harbor is about 50 years old and showing signs of structural decay.


The bridge, which also houses all of the utility lines for the island, doesn’t meet seismic standards and could be in danger of failing if it isn’t replaced, said Chris Miller, harbor resources manager for Newport Beach.

The project would include building a new, single-span bridge directly adjacent to the old one with wooden pilings, then demolishing the old structure.

“The new bridge is not going to occupy any more square footage than the existing bridge — it’s a like for like replacement,” Miller said. “The space that is lost by the new bridge will be made up.”

The Bay Island Club, a co-op of the island’s 20-some property owners, has made numerous concessions to keep its neighbors on the peninsula happy, said Jared Ficker, a consultant the club has hired to help it obtain all the proper permits for the bridge. Planning for the bridge replacement has been a five-year process of community outreach and meetings with various regulatory agencies, he said.

“Bay Island has been very sensitive to concerns of its neighbors throughout the process,” Ficker said.

The Bay Island Club plans to truck or bus in construction workers for the project and haul in materials by barge to keep disruptions to a minimum on the peninsula, Ficker said.

The club will foot the entire bill for the project, which is estimated to cost several million dollars and will take six to eight months to complete. The California Coastal Commission has yet to give the go-ahead for the project, but the club hopes to gain its approval this summer to begin work in the fall on the bridge replacement, Ficker said.

Follett and other Island Avenue residents worry the construction will wreak havoc on their street. One of Newport’s oldest neighborhoods, the homes on Island Avenue don’t have garages. Island Avenue residents also worry the project will wash away a beloved fishing spot on a bulkhead next to the bridge.

“People come from all over Southern California to fish off the bulkhead — it gives the neighborhood a cool, funky quality to have people fishing over there,” Follett said.

The new bridge will actually give residents more room to fish, Ficker claims, and the new structure will be slightly narrower than the existing bridge.

“I think some of that is a misunderstanding of how the bridge is designed,” Ficker said. “There won’t be any negative impact to fishing access.”

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