Opponents of a plan to put tollbooths on Newport Coast Drive turned out in force last week to urge the City Council to oppose the plan and stop the proposed construction of a $17.5-million bypass.
The bypass is intended to give drivers who travel on Newport Coast Drive between Irvine and Pacific Coast Highway an alternative route, to avoid paying a toll on the planned San Joaquin Hills Toll Road.
A 1 1/2-mile portion of Newport Coast Drive southeast of MacArthur Boulevard would become part of the toll road.
"There is no legal way tolls can be charged on Newport Coast Drive, as we intend to have the courts declare," said attorney Jim Toledano, who represents the Newport Coast Drive Defense Fund.
The homeowner organization has filed suit against the Transportation Corridor Agencies to block the planned tollbooths.
Toledano told council members that the alternative route, which he calls the "mark of Zorro" because of its zigzag pattern, will increase traffic in Irvine significantly.
An environmental impact report on the proposed realignment of Newport Coast Drive contains three alternative routes. But all require the zigzag route for drivers to avoid paying a toll. The report is available for public review until Dec. 19.
George Gallagher, president of the Irvine Conservancy, said the city should refuse to cooperate with any plan to put tollbooths on Newport Coast Drive until the lawsuit is resolved.
But council members were reluctant to comment on the planned tollbooths.
The bypass project will come before the City Council for approval in late January or early February.