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Newport Beach Seeks to Delay Airport Monorail Project

Times Staff Writer

Citing concerns about the possible expansion of John Wayne Airport, the city of Newport Beach sought Friday to delay a proposed $3-million monorail project that would link the airport to a nearby office complex.

In a move designed to force the county to reopen hearings on the plan, the city formally appealed the county’s decision not to require an environmental impact report on the project.

Newport Beach City Atty. Robert Burnham said the city is concerned that the proposed rail system will mean additional growth at the airport and that the monorail itself, once built, will likely be expanded.

The monorail is a project of the McDonnell Douglas Realty Co., which wants to link its Douglas Plaza business park to the airport’s planned $300-million terminal, about a half-mile away. If built, it would be the first privately owned, public-use monorail system in the country.

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The project received tentative approval from the Orange County Board of Supervisors in October. It still must be approved by the city of Irvine.

The proposal had been hailed by local officials and environmental groups as an innovative way to alleviate congestion associated with the airport.

But Newport Beach, exposed to much of the jet noise from aircraft departing the airport, has long voiced concern about any proposals that might cause expansion at the airport.

Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, whose district includes the airport and the city of Newport Beach, was troubled by the city’s decision.

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“I have grave concerns and disappointment about anything that delays or makes it more difficult to try to solve transportation problems,” Riley said. “Until I see what problems (Newport Beach) has with this idea, it is difficult to understand what their reasoning is.”

William Schreiber, a spokesman for McDonnell Douglas Realty, said he has not seen the appeal yet, but added that his company has not proposed any expansions of the system.

“The monorail is a service loop that would serve the immediate area adjacent to the airport,” he said. “That this would somehow cause the airport to expand does not appear to be a valid argument.”

However, Schreiber said his company will discuss the concerns of Newport Beach officials. “We believe an agreement will be worked out,” he said.

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