Some See Accident Boosting Case for Bridge

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An accident that critically injured a teen on Irvine Avenue near Newport Harbor on Tuesday has brought the recently approved pedestrian bridge at San Miguel Drive and Avocado Avenue to several residents’ minds.

The incident occurred at Irvine Avenue at Margaret Drive. The intersection is adjacent to the school and occurred about when school was being let out.

One online commenter said that the accident near the school shows that the San Miguel bridge can save lives and that “our walking friends, family and children need [the] protection this bridge will provide.”

Another online commenter noted that the $2 million being spent on the San Miguel bridge is better used in other safety measures for the areas surrounding the schools.

Councilmember Ed Selich, who supported the bridge in the 4-3 council vote to OK it, said that the bridge will help secure the safety of pedestrians at San Miguel and Avocado, one of the most problematic intersections in the city. The only other triple left-turn lane in Newport Beach is at PCH and Jamboree.

Selich said he is unsure how much traffic the Irvine Avenue intersection gets, but he has seen the crowds of students in that general area during the morning arrival and afternoon end-of-school hours.

There are different ideas to look at to increase safety near schools, he said, including crossing guards, a staggered bell schedule, and lane configurations and other traffic measures.

Newport Harbor High School senior Crystal Morales, 17, was struck by an SUV Tuesday afternoon while using the crosswalk across Irvine Avenue at Margaret Drive. She is in critical condition at Western Medical Center.

Newport Harbor High School Principal Michael Vossen wrote in a letter to parents, staff and members of the NHHS community that Morales sustained head trauma, internal bleeding, brain swelling and other injuries. Vossen wrote that she was placed in a medically induced coma to help her recover over the next two weeks.

The driver of the SUV, Marnie J. Lippincott, 38, of Costa Mesa, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Lippencott has previously been arrested and/or ticketed for burglary in the second degree, grand theft, several citations for obtaining controlled substance by fraud, driving on a suspended license, unsafe speed, not wearing a seatbelt, lane violation, and other traffic and criminal citations.

The city and the school district need to work together to achieve the safest situation in the areas surrounding schools, Selich said.

In a letter to members of the Newport Harbor High School community following Tuesday‘s accident, Principal Michael Vossen agreed, writing that “regarding concerns on the crosswalk safety for our students, we will continue to work with the NBPD and the city of NB to ensure as much is being done as possible to ensure the safety of our students.”

While a pedestrian bridge may not be one of the considerations at the Irvine and Margaret intersection to increase safety, it might be the answer for other busy intersections in the city.

During the city council meeting last Tuesday meeting, Selich predicted that the San Miguel walkway will be the first of many pedestrian bridges needed at other critical intersections in Newport Beach in order to continue the efficiency of the city’s streets.

They will help ensure pedestrian safety, Selich said, as well as improve traffic flow thus improving the risk of traffic accidents as well.

The county will continue to grow and more and more people will continue to visit Newport Beach increasing traffic and risk for accidents.

A couple examples of where pedestrian bridges could potentially be located, Selich said, are at W. Balboa Boulevard/Superior Avenue and PCH and the Newport Coast Drive and San Joaquin Hills Road.

Any possible intersection for pedestrian bridge would have to be studied carefully before anything else, he said.


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