A six-lane Mariners' Mile is a decades-old concept.
Newport Beach Public Works Director Dave Webb shared that piece of history Wednesday at a Speak Up Newport forum focused on the ongoing revitalization talks for the heavily traveled stretch of Coast Highway.
Webb shared snapshots of a City Council resolution from 1975 that proposed widening the road to three lanes in each direction. The 1.3-mile segment between Newport Boulevard and Dover Drive has two or three lanes in each direction, with parts of the highway used for turn lanes and street parking on the side.
"I'm proposing to follow council direction from 42 years ago," Webb said. "And now that that's been in place for so long the development that we have done in the city counts on that road to be six lanes."
Based on traffic engineers' best practices, the high number of cars that travel the road could justify eight lanes, he added.
Mariners' Mile's average daily traffic count is about 48,000 cars in its slightly heavier sub-section between Newport Boulevard and Tustin Avenue. By 2030, that could reach 57,000 cars.
In the narrower spots, traffic now earns an E letter grade on an A-F scale, with A being so free-flowing there's no wait at red lights and F being stop-and-go congestion. If left untouched, that would earn the Newport-Tustin stretch of highway an F in the future. The general plan requires city roads to be at least a D.
Mariners' Mile is a longtime nerve center for boater services, eclectic dining, and a retail and residential district. Other recently studied concepts for the area include adding bike lanes; rerouting Avon Street to improve traffic flow; and creating a pedestrian-friendly commercial village.
The widening would require overtaking current street parking for travel lanes. Funding for highway capacity expansion is expected to come from grants and gas taxes.
Mariners' Mile was identified in 2011 as a zone in need of revitalization. City staff released a 162-page draft version of an updated master plan for the area this week, and will continue public outreach with a Planning Commission study session April 20. The plan could come before the City Council for adoption by June.