Almost a year after giving residents a sneak peek at the possibilities, Costa Mesa is continuing to move ahead with a planned makeover of Merrimac Way that would add buffered bike lanes, a new pedestrian crossing and a multi-use path.
During a community meeting Thursday at City Hall, officials said a major motivation for the project is to curb speeding along Merrimac between Harbor Boulevard and Fairview Road while making it safer to walk and bike in the area.
As proposed, the city would reduce the number of through traffic lanes from four to two on Merrimac, which runs along the southern edge of Orange Coast College. The city also plans to install a new path on the north side of the street that could accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, add cycle tracks that would include a buffer between cyclists and cars and put in a signalized crossing near Sunset Cove Apartments similar to the one on nearby Arlington Drive.
Some of those concepts were previewed last spring during the Explore Merrimac event, which used signs and roadway markings to represent what the new features could look like.
During that demonstration, the city found that motorists’ average speed on the roadway dipped from 39 to 35 mph, according to Transportation Services Manager Jennifer Rosales.
The estimated budget for the project is $1.5 million, according to Public Services Director Raja Sethuraman. The hope is that grants will cover nearly $1 million of that.
The roughly 15 people who attended Thursday’s meeting seemed enthusiastic about the proposal, with one major exception: a new sidewalk on the south side of the street, between the current path’s end and Fairview Road.
The objectors largely hailed from Hanover Drive, immediately south of Merrimac. Having a sidewalk along that side of the road, they said, would bring potentially disruptive foot traffic behind their properties and could result in people peeking into their yards or throwing trash over their fences.
It’s also unnecessary, they said, because pedestrians would easily be able to walk along the north side of Merrimac and use the new crosswalk to safely move from one side of the street to the other.
Another concern was the potential loss of landscaping as part of the project — particularly trees, which residents said are needed to block light coming from the OCC campus.
Sethuraman said residents’ concerns will be considered as the city firms up the project design.
“This is great,” he told the audience. “This is kind of what we need to meet on” so city officials can “try and understand your issues and take them into account as we go through the process.”
The project is expected to go to the City Council for review later this year.