New traffic and bike lanes coming to Balboa Peninsula street to ease bottleneck

Construction crews are expected to break ground this month on a long-awaited project to improve traffic flow and bicycle access on an often-congested stretch of Newport Boulevard at the entrance to Balboa Peninsula.

The Newport Beach City Council last week awarded a $3.9 million contract to Tustin-based GMC Engineering Inc. to widen portions of Newport between Via Lido and 30th Street. The work also will demolish a former bank and video store.

The widening will provide an additional southbound lane from Via Lido to 32nd Street, which will end with a right-turn-only lane at that intersection. The project also will provide an additional northbound lane from 30th Street to 32nd Street.

Bike lanes on both sides of Newport Boulevard will be extended between Via Lido and 32nd, providing more access to bicyclists heading to the beach, said city Public Works Director Dave Webb.

Now, southbound Newport Boulevard heading onto the peninsula is three lanes until Via Lido, when it becomes two lanes. The stretch heading north off the peninsula is two lanes until just past 32nd Street, when it becomes three lanes.

“That area of the peninsula has always been a bottleneck,” Webb said. “This [project] should relieve some backup there and allow people to move more freely on and off the peninsula.”

On-street parking along Newport between Via Lido and 30th Street will be replaced by a public parking lot on the northwest corner of Newport Boulevard and 32nd Street, where a building formerly occupied by Wachovia Bank and a Blockbuster video store stands at 3201 Newport.

The city bought the building and the adjacent parking lot for $6.35 million in 2014. After the project, the lot will feature 32 spaces, an increase of seven from the number now available as street parking on Newport, plans show.

The first phase of construction will reconfigure the parking lot and demolish the building. After that, the city will begin widening the road.

New raised medians with drought-tolerant landscaping also will be installed, as well as new traffic signals and light emitting diode (LED) street lights.

City staff expects the project to be completed by June.

The Public Works Department secured grants totaling $4.19 million, which will cover part of the construction costs and the building and parking lot purchase. The city will pay about $880,000 from the general fund and the rest from gas taxes and county and city funds for transportation and utility projects.