Letter to the Editor: Traffic Headaches in Newport Heights

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I feel sorry for my neighbors who live on Riverside Avenue.

We have been aware in Newport Heights of a traffic circulation change being considered for the last several months. The City Council has even gone so far as to close off upper Tustin on a trial basis and the results were made known at a Study Session Meeting this last Tuesday.

Study session is really a misnomer as conversation with the Council, once information is provided, does not follow a back and forth pattern. Residents are allowed to speak, a technical presentation was given by the City’s Traffic Expert, and the Council posed questions on the information provided by the expert, but no one in the audience was allowed to ask questions after their initial presentations. And this was regarding technical information.

By the way, there is nothing in state law that says that people in the audience cannot have back and forth conversation with the Council but that means giving up control and our Council is not about to do that. It sure would be a good way for residents to participate in local government and there would be much less confusion about the council’s actions.

The closing of upper Tustin resulted in their traffic decreasing from 834 to 276 cars daily, a considerable change. However, by making that change, other streets in the Heights experienced considerable increases in traffic flow.

The only other thoroughfare in the Heights from Pacific Coast Highway to 17th Street is Riverside, a street known for constant traffic, speed issues and visibility problems because just like Upper Tustin, Riverside has a hill.

Also like Tustin, the street is very narrow because cars park on both sides of the street and traffic is running in two directions. As an avid walker, I won’t ever go up or down that street or lower Tustin because I feel that they present danger to pedestrians due to the excessive number of cars and lack of space on both streets.

Let’s look at some other statistics-changes that took place in traffic patterns because of the closure of Tustin. Traffic on Riverside increased from 1,862 trips daily to 2,053!  Avon traffic increased, one small section of Cliff Drive increased and lower Tustin increased from 2,513 to 2,517 daily!  What is amazing to me is the huge number of car trips made on all of these streets, meaning that if they make the change on upper Tustin permanent, every other street used by cars to get through the Heights will see increases.

Almost 200 more cars per day on Riverside means 1400 additional cars per week for Riverside!  While the Traffic expert says that 2,000 and even 3,000 cars per day is acceptable, I find those numbers very shocking  to contemplate.

What the Council is saying if they okay the permanent closure, is that 2,000 cars on Riverside and 3,000 cars  on lower Tustin are acceptable, but 834 on Tustin are not. I guess once you get in the thousands, they must feel that a couple extra hundred cars should make no difference.

The reason that upper Tustin residents gave for asking for this closure were not clear.  There was some talk of a “narrow” street, of partygoers using Tustin instead of Riverside to avoid interaction with the police, and repeated claims by a few council members that this street was “unique.”

Final decisions have not been made regarding this issue, so people on neighboring streets who have concerns, need to contact the City Council as soon as possible.

Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach

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