City, OCTA award contract for 55 Freeway expansion study

COSTA MESA — The city and Orange County Transportation Authority have tapped an engineering firm to expand earlier studies on extending the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway.

Lowell, Mass.-based TRC Companies, Inc. was awarded a $1.1-million contract this week to evaluate traffic circulation at the 55 Freeway-Newport Boulevard exit into Costa Mesa.

"This is a longterm project that we've had on our books for a long, long time," said Costa Mesa Public Services Director Peter Naghavi.

One of the ultimate goals is to decrease congestion at the end of the freeway that empties into Costa Mesa, while also turning shopping centers like Triangle Square around Newport Boulevard and 19th Street into more pedestrian-friendly plazas, city officials said.

Costa Mesa is contributing about $120,000 to the contract, he said.

TRC's study adds another layer to previous studies on how to expand the 55 Freeway to 16th Street. TRC will survey local businesses on how construction would affect their current business, what concerns they have about the project while explaining the benefits of a freeway overhaul.

The larger part of the company's work will focus on a few options OCTA, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach have discussed before for the future of the freeway, Naghavi said.

The group will evaluate the environmental impact of expanding the freeway's lanes — leading to possible eminent domain claims and a loss of property for businesses or homes — to tunneling the freeway underneath Newport Boulevard to about 16th Street.

"Anyway you look at it, it's a very, very expensive project," Naghavi said.

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