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Traffic jam goes to study

Costa Mesa is looking at options to loosen up congestion where the 55 Freeway ends and Newport Boulevard narrows.

February 18, 2010|By Mona Shadia

Peter Naghavi, Costa Mesa’s director of public services, along with staff from the Orange County Transportation Authority are preparing to take bids for a project study on the expansion of the 55 Freeway where it ends on Newport Boulevard.

The report will examine the various proposed solutions and look at the project’s impact on local businesses and residents.

Bidders will be invited to bid on the project study by late March.

Costa Mesa took on the expansion project more than a year ago, as traffic congestion in the area made it impossible to ignore.

“A lot of people think traffic is good for business, but too much traffic and congested traffic is not good for business,” Naghavi said. “If I’m a loyal customer near there and it takes me half an hour to get there every time, I’m going to find another place where there isn’t too much traffic.”

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About 100,000 cars unload from the southbound 55 Freeway onto Newport Boulevard with about half going to local destinations and the other half traveling to Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, among other cities, Naghavi said. And although there are seven lanes, they are not enough to prevent jams because the street eventually narrows.

The city attempted to help the situation by adding more lanes, but that relieved traffic by about 33%, Naghavi said.

Then and Now

In 1985, the California Department of Transportation proposed extending the freeway from 19th Street, where it ends, through the eastside of Newport Boulevard.

That plan would have eliminated at least 80 homes and businesses for needed space and the potential for a pedestrian-friendly downtown would be nonexistent, Naghavi said.

The proposal also stalled for lack of funds.

An access study, which cost about $275,000, provided seven alternatives to the freeway’s expansion.

Naghavi said many of those alternatives would only find temporary fixes, including adding bus turnouts, improving signal coordination and adding lanes, which the city has done.

The seventh solution, however, stands out, Naghavi said. The cut/cover freeway under Newport Boulevard would separate local and regional traffic by providing lanes for both. It is estimated to cost about $200 million, Naghavi said.

Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry said that his city, like every other in the region, is interested in creating a solution for traffic congestion where the 55 Freeway ends.

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