The City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to connect the two sections of the new Civic Center and park on Avocado Avenue with a $2 million pedestrian bridge over San Miguel Drive.
The bridge would be paid for with contingency funds, Public Works Director Steve Badum explained, half from the city’s contingency and half from the GMP construction contingency.
It will include an elevator and overlook with views of the ocean. It is also expected to help traffic flow in the busy intersection at Avocado and San Miguel, Councilman Ed Selich said.
“It’s a signature item that completes this project,” Selich said. “I believe it will become one of the great symbols of our city.”
Selich reasoned that the $2 million price tag for the bridge might seem like a lot, but it’s only 2 percent of the project budget.
Councilman Steve Rosansky was outspoken about his opposition to the project.
It may only be 2 percent, but it’s easy to play games with numbers, Rosansky countered, and $2 million is still a big number, he said.
“I think it’s a waste of money,” Rosansky said.
Rosansky said the bridge would have limited use.
“To claim that this is a view opportunity is really stretching it,” Rosansky said. If people want to view the ocean, there are other great spots within the city, he said, with “a killer view and it won’t cost us $2 million to get it.”
Selich acknowledgd that some have labeled it a “bridge to nowhere,” but said it will keep the park and its trails connected and improve a challenged intersection.
Selich also predicted that this will be the first of many pedestrian bridges needed at other critical intersections in Newport Beach in order to maintain the efficiency of the city’s streets.
There are functional, aesthetic and financial reasons to support the bridge, Councilman Rush Hill agreed.
“It’s either now or never,” Hill said, “and I support to do the bridge now.”
Mayor Mike Henn questioned why it was critical to build it now and if it would be possible to wait.
To go forward with construction and design of the project not including the bridge, and then adding it in later, would potentially tack on additional costs and time, said William Hahn, the project manager with lead contractor C.W. Driver.
Henn also questioned why Badum was so confident the funds were, and would stay, available in the contingency.
There have been extensive conversations about every aspect of the project, Badum said.
“Vetting the whole process, looking at the plans, looking at how it all comes together,” Badum said, “the whole team is feeling very confident that we’ve addressed most of the major areas.”
There may be little items that pop up, but there’s nothing large on the horizon, Badum said.
Henn ended up voting for the project, with Selich, Hill and Councilmember Keith Curry. Councilmember Leslie Daigle and Mayer Pro Tem Nancy Gardner joined Rosansky in opposing it.
Jack Wu has an opinion on the bridge decision here.