Newport council backs out of plan for Bayside Drive roundabout

The roundabout is out.

A split Newport Beach City Council voted Tuesday to keep Bayside Drive a four-lane road, reversing a 2016 decision to reduce a portion of the street to two lanes and install a roundabout in response to neighbors’ concerns about speeding and reckless driving.

Tuesday’s 4-3 vote, with Mayor Kevin Muldoon, Mayor Pro Tem Marshall “Duffy” Duffield and council members Diane Dixon and Will O’Neill in the majority, favors narrowing the traffic lanes (but not removing any), adding raised and flush medians and closing gaps in sidewalk and bike lanes.

The vote overrides one taken by a different council lineup in November, which would have halved Bayside to one lane in each direction between Harbor Island Drive and Coast Highway and left four lanes through to Jamboree Road/Marine Avenue, with the roundabout on Bayside at Harbor Island near the residential cluster.

Council members Brad Avery, Jeff Herdman and Scott Peotter supported a different partial lane reduction that would have whittled eastbound traffic to one lane from Coast Highway to the signalized pedestrian crossing but not installed a roundabout.

About 20 residents of the immediate area, plus nearby Balboa Island and Linda Isle, gave testimony before the council. Generally, the Bayside residents supported the roundabout concept, while people from other neighborhoods did not.

Bayside Drive resident Gregson Hall said dissenting speakers are not familiar with how many crashes happen on Bayside and feel that adding a few seconds to their commutes is unacceptable.

“Traffic safety improvements should not be subject to convenience or unanimous local opinion,” he said.

Gilbert Jones, who lives just off Bayside, opposed any change.

“This is a main highway,” he said. “It always has been and it is not something that should become a residential area to try and just help out a few of the residents who came after it was a highway.”

Balboa Island resident Jim Parkhurst, who drives Bayside daily, said the city should calm speeding by strictly enforcing existing laws with heavy fines.

“Let’s be smart, let’s be entrepreneurial, let’s make Bayside a revenue source and punish the guilty,” he said.

Lori Teslow, who regularly visits her parents at their longtime home on Bayside Drive, said commenters were only sharing opinions and that traffic engineers had firmer evidence behind their roundabout recommendation.

She said reversing the November vote on the roundabout would open the city to liability in case of a serious incident.

“It would be known that there had been this action and you rescinded it because (the) public didn’t understand and you cared more about what the public doesn’t understand,” Teslow said.

Brad Sommers, a civil engineer with the city, said Tuesday’s council meeting was the 14th public meeting on the topic, which he said had polarized the community.

After the November vote, city staff continued to hold community forums and found more resistance to the roundabout idea because of concerns about potential congestion and the challenge of navigating the traffic circle.

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