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Civic Center bridge back on the agenda

Newport City Council will consider spending $2 million for pedestrian walkway connecting new center to a park.

November 28, 2011|By Mike Reicher

The Newport Beach Civic Center construction project could cost an additional $2 million if the City Council decides Tuesday to revive a proposal for a pedestrian bridge.

Public Works Director Steve Badum plans to present the latest construction costs and recommend the council add the bridge, which would connect two halves of a park bisected by San Miguel Drive.

Criticized for building the $130-million Civic Center in the midst of a recession and a shrinking city staff, the council in February voted to hold off on the bridge to save costs. But council members left open the possibility to add it later.

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If the city decided to wait until the end of the project to build the bridge, it could have to re-grade and re-work landscaping and irrigation, potentially costing the city more, Badum said.

"This is probably the most cost-effective time to add it back in," he said.

Most of the project's contingency funds remain unspent, Badum added, and future aspects have less risk than those already completed or well underway. Already, the city has graded the site and erected structural steel — construction components that often have unforeseen costs.

In total, the city has spent about $600,000 of a $5.4-million contingency budget.

At least one council member is skeptical. Leslie Daigle, the most outspoken Civic Center cost hawk, said she wasn't convinced future phases would be trouble-free.

"There is no certainty that contingency money is secure," she said, adding that the bridge's perceived design benefits are "subjective."

Those who advocate for the bridge, such as the project's landscape architect Peter Walker, believe it would provide an important connection between the Civic Center and the northern park. Crossing San Miguel might discourage people from visiting the upper reaches.

"You have to, as gracefully as possible, get people up there," Walker said earlier this year.

Once called "the bridge to nowhere" by Mayor Mike Henn, it would connect people to walking trails and a dog park.

mike.reicher@latimes.com

Twitter: @mreicher

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