City officials are putting the Orange County Transportation Authority on notice that they do not intend to build a Newport Coast Drive bypass, despite the city's recent approval of the proposed road.
Council members said their March 29 vote amending the city's General Plan to include a toll-free bypass to Newport Coast Drive was made under "extreme duress." The county threatened to withhold millions of dollars in transportation funds if a route was not approved.
On Tuesday night, the City Council unanimously approved the wording of a letter addressed to the OCTA stating that Irvine "will not fund or initiate construction" of the Newport Coast Drive bypass.
Several bypass routes were proposed to circumvent a 1 1/2-mile section of Newport Coast Drive planned to become part of the San Joaquin Hills toll road. Irvine residents were divided into warring camps, arguing against routes nearest their neighborhoods.
But most residents said they would prefer that no bypass route be built, expressing support for an effort to keep Newport Coast Drive toll-free. Costa Mesa attorney Jim Toledano filed a lawsuit in September on behalf of the Newport Coast Drive Defense Fund against what he calls the "illegal seizure of a public road."
But planning for the bypass continues. County officials on Tuesday approved a contract for design work on the proposed route.
It is not yet clear which agency is supposed to pay for construction of the road.
Some Irvine council members suggested that the city could block the route by refusing to grant construction permits. But City Atty. Joel D. Kuperberg said he doubts that permits could be denied without just cause.
"I don't think we can block them from building it, but we don't have a requirement ourselves to build it," Kuperberg said.