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Compromise Offered in Lieu of Toll on Currently 'Free' Road


SANTA ANA — A new proposal surfaced Thursday to resolve the bitter clash between county tollway officials and commuters who don't want a planned 50-cent toll on what is now a "free" Newport Coast Drive.

The problem arises because the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor is to occupy the same ground as Newport Coast Drive from a point south of Bonita Canyon Drive to MacArthur Boulevard.

Newport Beach Councilman Phil Sansone, attending his first meeting as a member of the tollway board, proposed a compromise that would eliminate toll booths now planned for the on-ramps from Newport Coast Drive to the tollway.

Sansone argued that other toll booths are planned about a mile and a half north of Newport Coast Drive, at Bonita Canyon Drive. So, under his scenario, a driver entering the northbound toll road would get to ride that 1.5-mile segment for free, exit at Bonita Canyon, turn left and proceed to MacArthur Boulevard by way of a planned extension of Ford Road.

A motorist entering the southbound toll road lanes from Newport Coast Drive would still go through the main toll plaza that will be built on the stretch of tollway between Newport Coast Drive and Laguna Canyon Road.

"I think it may save the county some money, because they wouldn't need to build the Newport Coast Drive extension to Bonita Canyon," Sansone said. "And the interchange between Newport Coast Drive and the tollway won't have to be so big and complicated."

Tollway officials said they would consider Sansone's idea.

South County commuters and Corona del Mar residents have been up in arms because nobody warned them that a toll would be charged on what is now Newport Coast Drive. In Corona del Mar, residents fear that drivers seeking to escape the toll will use already-jammed Coast Highway and MacArthur Boulevard near their neighborhoods.

Sansone replaces fellow Newport Beach Councilman John C. Cox Jr. as that city's delegate to the board. Laguna Niguel Councilwoman Patricia C. Bates replaced Cox as chairperson.

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