Newport’s South Beach Peninsula is a special maritime environment near the mouth of the Yaquina River and the crossing of US 101. The peninsula is home to several of Newport’s most important institutional and recreational facilities, including the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the South Beach Marina. In May 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) relocated its fleet of research vessels from Seattle to the northern end of the South Beach Peninsula.
In November 2009, a Design Team, led by SERA and including Kittelson and GreenWorks, prepared a Transportation Refinement Plan for the district. The team’s mission was to work with area stakeholders and the general public to design a series of vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements that would improve the overall access, efficiency, safety, and aesthetics of the peninsula’s transportation system. During an intensive, three-month planning process, the Design Team developed and refined circulation, streetscape, parking, and wayfinding concepts, and also prepared planning-level cost estimates for a range of public improvements proposed in the plan. Much of the design work was completed during a four-day design Charrette held in Newport in December 2009.
Although the South Beach Peninsula is a fairly large land mass, it only has a small handful of public streets that provide access to its various institutional, recreational, industrial, and commercial uses. For the most part, these streets do not have pedestrian and / or bicycle facilities, and the provision of these facilities is a major part of this plan. The parking lot access points and drive aisles form a secondary / complementary system for vehicular circulation. A key component of this plan is to align the roadway and driveway access points as much as possible in order to create a safer and more efficient vehicular circulation system overall. In addition, improvements are proposed for several of the peninsula’s key intersections, including a terminal roundabout on the north end of Marine Science Drive, which provides clear access to NOAA, the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the marina boat launch. Given the high volume of visitors that flock to the area for events or to visit the area’s many attractions, the plan also addresses signage and wayfinding, proposing not only principles for physical signage, but how entry sequences for key institutions can be improved through various circulation improvements and design treatments. Many of the improvements identified in the plan were constructed in early 2011.