Pedestrians and cyclists at the crossroads of Superior Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway may soon be able to “cross that bridge” when they come to it, due to the city recently being awarded funding to construct an overcrossing.
Newport Beach was awarded a grant last month from the Orange County Transportation Authority for about $2.4 million for the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Superior Avenue at West PCH. It will connect residents and visitors between Sunset Ridge Park and the parking lot.
City Councilman Brad Avery, who represents District 2, which covers the intersection, announced the grant at the Feb. 27 Council meeting.
“It’s pretty exciting because it’s much more than a bridge,” Avery said at the time.
It’s about connecting people and parks, public access, safety, and traffic.
Public access often boils down to parking and the bridge is an important part of that, Avery said later in a phone interview.
“We want people to be able to easily (and safely) access our parks,” Avery noted.
The hope is that, down the line, another pedestrian and bicycle bridge across PCH will also constructed, he added. It will more easily connect people and cyclists to the beach and Balboa Peninsula.
“More links to the coast is good,” Avery said.
For the community, that intersection is a main gateway to the beach, noted Newport Beach Public Works Civil Engineer Brad Sommers, who oversaw the grant writing process and worked with OCTA staff on the project.
The aim is to make “it easy and convenient to use for both cyclists and pedestrians,” and connect the parking lot, the park, and the beach, Sommers said.
Former Councilman Tony Petros, Avery’s predecessor in the district, worked on the project as well.
“It is a big deal,” Petros said this week. “I’m grateful folks are realizing it’s a worthwhile project.”
It will also enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists by removing the need to cross the busy Superior Avenue at street level.
“Now kids are going to have a safe way to cross that street,” with their parents, Petros said.
The crossing is intended for cyclists as well, Sommers pointed out, so staff will be considering ramp options.
“The park is elevated so that works to our advantage,” he said.
Also important, the bridge will be at a height that will be below the view line for people living in Newport Crest.
“We’re very aware of the homes’ views,” Sommers said.
In the grander picture, the bridge will also help ease some of the traffic stress on that intersection.
“We expect to see an increase in usage of the park,” Sommers said. “We also expect to see the efficiency of the intersection improve.”
Studies have shown that it could improve the performance of that intersection by as much as 10 to 15 percent, explained Petros, who works as a transportation planner.
“By virtue of not having to stop the traffic for pedestrians to cross the street,” vehicle flow should improve, Petros explained.
Commuters on PCH will see a difference, he noted.
“I’m absolutely excited,” Petros said. “It’s a real win-win.”
At the February meeting, Avery noted that there was a lot of work “behind the scenes” on the getting the grant. City staff worked hard to get that grant, he commented.
Staff applied for grant in May of 2016. It was placed on the “standby” list of projects for the Bicycle Corridor Improvement Program.
Funds for the BCIP come from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, and are contingent on the California Department of Transportation’s approval of project eligibility and the OCTA Master Plan of Arterial Highways’ amendment approval.
At the Feb. 12 OCTA meeting, the board canceled four projects from the county, and the cities of Dana Point and San Clemente, for a total of $5.824 million.
The projects were cancelled because either lack of match funding, additional environmental documentation, or the BCIP funds were no longer needed.
The board then unanimously approved funding for three BCIP standby list projects, including Newport Beach, as well as the city of Irvine and the County of Orange, for a total of $5.025 million.
They approved about $2.35 million for Newport Beach’s bridge project.
Total construction cost for the bridge is estimated at $2.93 million, according to the OCTA staff report, and the city has to match 20 percent of that, or $587,400.
The grant funds go toward the actual construction of the project, not the design.
“The bridge has been under consideration for a while,” Sommers said.
The concept has been around for at least a decade, Petros said.
Superior Avenue at PCH has long been known to be a critical intersection in the city, Petros said. Discussions about how traffic can be relieved there, what can be done and what cost began early on.
When he was on Council, Petros started to seek meetings with OCTA, Orange County Supervisor for Newport Beach Michelle Steel, and others interested parties.
Overall, he got a very “warm reception,” he said. Everyone truly worked together, he added.
A few years ago Sunset Ridge Park was built. There was a lot of effort put into creating the park, Avery noted. It has proved to be pretty popular, he added.
The park was intended to have a parking lot with the build out of the adjacent property (Banning Ranch) but the California Coastal Commission voted that down.
“So then we’ve got this park and people can’t get to it,” very easily, Avery said. “They have to walk down and across one of the busier intersections in the city, and then up the stairs… It’s not an ideal situation at all.”
Now the grant has placed the bridge back on the table.
Although it’s not as great of a plan as it could have been if the CCC had allowed the city to build the parking lot adjacent to the park, it’s still an improvement on current situation, Petros commented.
Construction of the bridge is approximately two years out, Sommers estimated. Late 2020 or mid 2021, Avery predicted.
The project has to go through the required permitting process, as well as the design phase, environmental review and public outreach.
It’s very early in the conceptual phase right now, Sommers emphasized, and it’s still subject to change.
During City Council’s “early look” at the 2018-19 Capital Improvement Program on Tuesday, the bridge was mentioned in the Lower Sunset View Park Concept/Overcrossings project. The total $5.7 million budget includes both crossings (over Superior and eventually another over PCH) and landings and some additional site work, Public Works Director Dave Webb explained.
A large portion of the funds will come from Park Acquisition Funds, paid through developer fees ear tagged specifically to increase or improve city parks.
Councilman Kevin Muldoon asked that the item be brought back so Council can vote on any changes that have been made since the previous Council lineup approved the initial park project. He emphasized that there should be more public review before moving forward.
“I don’t want this to be bootstrapped,” Mudoon said. “I don’t want to rely on the prior vote that was made by the prior Council with different information and have that turn into a new project done by staff without oversight from the Council.”