IRVINE : 3 Unlikely Allies Speak Out Against Tollbooths

What strange political bedfellows a tollbooth can make.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, there they were, united in opposition to tollbooths planned for Newport Coast Drive: conservative Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), his former rival Jim Toledano, a Democrat and candidate to succeed Ferguson, and activist Patrick Mitchell.

"When people as far apart as Assemblyman Gil Ferguson and myself can come to agreement on something, you know it's a bad project," said Mitchell, 27, who was arrested a year ago Tuesday along with seven other Earth First! activists who had chained themselves to bulldozers to protest construction of the San Joaquin Hills toll road.

Ferguson said coastal residents will ask the courts to block a 50-cent toll planned for a 1 1/2-mile section of Newport Coast Drive by the Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies. He also warned that Culver Drive could end up with 10,000 vehicles a day as motorists turn to the thoroughfare to avoid the toll.

"There will soon be a toll road through the middle of Irvine," Ferguson warned, urging formal opposition from council members. "I'm certain that the way they did it is unconstitutional and against the law."

More than a dozen residents--including those who use Newport Coast Drive as a direct link from Coast Highway to UC Irvine, John Wayne Airport and South Coast Plaza--spoke against the planned tollbooths.

Council members said they will review environmental reports in January.

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