City Council members won the applause of toll road opponents Tuesday night by refusing to grant permission to the county for construction of a bypass route deemed essential to the completion of the San Joaquin Hills toll road.
But tempers flared long before the end of the three-hour hearing when activist George Gallagher, president of the Irvine Conservancy, accused City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. of secretly working against the council's unanimous opposition to the road.
Gallagher said he was told that Brady encouraged representatives of neighboring cities at a Nov. 29 meeting to vote in favor of postponing two Irvine road improvement projects worth $920,000 so that the money could be redirected to the $10.5-million bypass.
"A great injustice has been done to this council and to citizens of Irvine," Gallagher said during the meeting.
Irvine, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and the county each has a representative on a regional planning group called Growth Management Area Eight. The group voted Dec. 4 to reallocate Measure M road improvement funds from both Irvine and Newport Beach totaling $1.7 million, to help fund the $10.5-million bypass project.
Brady called Gallagher's assertions "damn lies," saying he attended the Nov. 29 meeting to win guarantees that Irvine's two projects would be given first priority in the following year if postponed.
"At no time did I misrepresent the city of Irvine's position," Brady said. "I resent any indication from Mr. Gallagher or anybody else that I did that."
Council members say that construction of the route, intended to provide a toll-free bypass for Newport Coast Drive commuters, may be inevitable. But they delayed action in spite of a recent letter from Orange County Transportation Authority Executive Director Stan Oftelie warning that Irvine may lose Measure M funds if the council does not approve county construction plans.