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55 Newport Blvd Study

The City of Costa Mesa (City) identified congestion on State Route 55 (SR-55)/Newport Boulevard as a significant quality of life issue for adjacent residential and business communities. As a result, the City requested that the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) together with its partner agency, the City Newport Beach, study alternative improvements to the extension of the Costa Mesa Freeway.


In 2011, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) initiated a Project Study Report-Project Development Support (PSR-PDS) to analyze transportation improvements related to State Route 55/Newport Boulevard from the end of the freeway at 19th Street and continuing south to Industrial Way.   

The effort was a continuation of the 2008 SR-55 Access Study, which identified four transportation improvement alternatives.  The goal of the study was to analyze the proposed alternatives in greater detail and identify initial scope, schedule, and cost considerations.  The PSR-PDS serves as a precursor to the next step in the project development process, which include a full environmental assessment and selection of a locally preferred alternative.  Currently, no funding has been identified for this environmental phase.  However, by moving this study forward and identifying viable alternatives, the project is ready for development should funding become available in the future.

Looking Forward

Traffic congestion at the end of the Costa Mesa Freeway is caused by both local and regional commuters. Most SR-55 drivers live in the area or travel there to visit local businesses on or near Newport Boulevard. At the terminus of the Costa Mesa Freeway, at 19th Street, close to 100,000 vehicles pass through this area on a daily basis, and these volumes are projected to grow in the future.

Study Schedule 

approximate timeline
Data Collection Mid - Late 2011
Business Interviews Mid - Late 2011
Convene Stakeholder Committees Mid - Late 2011
Public Meeting Late 2011
Alternatives Development/Analysis Early 2012
Preliminary Environmental Study Mid - Late 2012
Presentation to City Councils & Stakeholder Working Group Early 2013
Submit Final PSR for Caltrans Approval Early 2013


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No Build

The No Build alternative reflects future conditions along SR-55/Newport Boulevard with no
major improvements. This alternative also provides a “baseline condition” to which the other alternatives can be compared.

Transportation System Management (TSM)
The TSM alternative includes improvements, such as signal timing, bus turnouts and a pedestrian bridge near 19th Street, that can be made without significant impacts to properties and at a lower cost than the build alternatives.


Elevated Turn Lanes
The Elevated Turn Lane alternative features a single lane elevated roadway with an overcrossing structure that spans across the southbound lanes of SR-55/Newport Boulevard. This design feature provides a direct connection from northbound Superior Avenue to northbound SR-55/Newport Boulevard with the removal of the left turn on W. 18th Street/Rochester Street .


Cut and Cover
The Cut and Cover alternative evaluates building a new structure below SR-55/Newport Boulevard. This alternative proposes a four-lane extension of the Costa Mesa Freeway under SR-55/Newport Boulevard from 19th Street to Commercial Way. Newport Boulevard could be reduced to a six-lane arterial with enhanced medians, parkways, and wider sidewalks. This alternative is designed to separate local traffic from regional through-traffic.


Benefits and Processes

Study Benefits

This study evaluated those alternatives that best accommodate movements of cars, buses, and pedestrians. The alternatives balanced the benefits of improved mobility with potential fiscal, business, and community impacts, to arrive at recommendations that can be understood and accepted by the Newport - Costa Mesa community.

Study Process
This effort was a continuation of the 2008 SR-55 Access Study, which identified four alternatives for further study (No Build, TSM, Elevated Turn Lanes, and Cut and Cover). The effort analyzed these alternatives in greater depth and identified initial scope, schedule, and cost considerations for the next phase of the project development process — completion of an environmental document.

Based upon both technical analysis and public input, the study team conducted business surveys, examined traffic data, prepared cost estimates, and considered potential environmental impacts. This study will serve as a precursor document to the next phase, which will include a full Project Report and Environmental Document. At that point, the remaining alternatives are looked at in even greater detail along with a full environmental assessment and extensive public involvement program, resulting in selection of a locally preferred alternative.

Currently, no funding has been identified for the next phase of the study or for the ultimate project improvements selected. However, the completion of the SR-55 Newport Boulevard Improvements Study allows the City of Costa Mesa to move potential improvements through the planning process.

Throughout this effort, OCTA and its partner agencies worked with project stakeholders to collect feedback about the alternatives. A Stakeholder Working Group was formed to facilitate public involvement and encourage dialogue, which helped inform the technical analysis.

In addition, the project team conducted interviews with major businesses to help understand the possible impacts by project alternatives.