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NEWPORT BEACH : Study Finds Tollway Won't Worsen Traffic

October 12, 1994|HOLLY J. WAGNER

A traffic study commissioned by the San Joaquin Transportation Corridor Agency indicates that rush-hour traffic on Coast Highway in Corona del Mar will not worsen by the year 2000.

But opponents of a proposal to impose a toll on cars using Newport Coast Drive said the figures underestimate the problem.

The study, released last week, indicates that rush-hour traffic on Coast Highway would be 1,800 cars per hour--an increase of 100 cars per hour since Newport Coast Drive opened in 1991--if the San Joaquin tollway were not built. But researchers said traffic will remain stable at 1,700 cars per hour if the tollway is built.

The study by Austin-Foust Associates began in June after residents and local politicians complained about a plan to absorb a 1.4-mile section of Newport Coast Drive into the tollway.

Questionnaires answered by 2,833 Newport Coast Drive users indicate that 65% of them would use Coast Highway instead of Newport Coast Drive if a proposed 50-cent toll in each direction is imposed. Officials said 34% of the surveys were returned.

The challenged section of the proposed 15-mile tollway is a 1.4-mile strip of Newport Coast Drive from MacArthur Boulevard in Irvine to Bonita Canyon Drive. The tollway would extend to Interstate 5 near San Juan Capistrano.

Residents in Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach object to both the 50-cent toll and its potential to divert traffic off the planned toll road and onto Coast Highway. Earlier this month, a coalition of resident groups sued the agency to block the toll.

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