Amid continuing consternation over plans to put tollbooths on Newport Coast Drive, City Council members agreed this week to work with toll-wary city officials in Newport Beach to try to alter toll-road plans.
"It's come to the point where this is a political problem," tollbooth opponent and Irvine resident George Gallagher told council members Tuesday night.
"What we need to do is have the council member representatives from both communities get together and hammer out some type of solution," said Gallagher, president of the Irvine Conservancy.
A group of Newport Beach homeowners filed a lawsuit in September to stop the Transportation Corridor Agencies' plans to incorporate a 1 1/2-mile section of Newport Coast Drive into the San Joaquin Hills toll road. Irvine council members in March approved an extension that would allow motorists to bypass the planned tollbooths, connecting Newport Coast Drive to Bonita Canyon Road.
A number of residents in Irvine's Turtle Rock and University Hills communities have asked the City Council to rescind approval of the bypass route because they fear it would bring more noise and traffic to their neighborhoods. But Irvine council members say the city could lose more than $1 million a year in county transportation funds if the decision were reversed.
The Newport Beach City Council has expressed opposition to the tollbooths on Newport Coast Drive, but Mayor John W. Hedges says the city does not oppose the bypass.
"There needs to be access to coastal areas from Irvine, that's the purpose of the extension," Hedges said, adding that both cities may find common ground in opposing Newport Coast Drive tollbooths. "The extension is only necessary because of the tollbooths."