Saturday, February 6 , 2016, 10:29 am | Fair 63º

Montecito Association Urges Caltrans to Use Caution on Highway 101 Widening Project

The group pushes for an alternative to save time, money and frustration, but SBCAG insists safety is the driving force behind the plan's design

Construction is under way on a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on Highway 101 in Carpinteria. Caltrans wants to add the carpool lanes on an 11-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria to reduce congestion.
Construction is under way on a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane on Highway 101 in Carpinteria. Caltrans wants to add the carpool lanes on an 11-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria to reduce congestion.  (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

Montecito has long been a bottleneck for traffic on Highway 101, and plans to add a third lane in the area are raising the ire of some residents of the community, who argue that the project could be built for less money and in less time.

Caltrans wants to add the carpool lanes — also known as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes — on an 11-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria to reduce congestion in the area. Construction has already begun on an HOV lane on Highway 101 in Carpinteria, and that construction is expected to be finished in 2014.

Without the added capacity, the agency says congested conditions could exist for 10 hours a day by 2040, compared with two to four hours daily now.

Montecito residents gathered at a workshop last spring, and the main concern expressed then was the noise impact of the project, but since then, concerns seem to have shifted.

Now, they’re focusing on the two left-hand ramps that would be replaced by the improvements — the Cabrillo and Sheffield off-ramps — and would move them to the right side of the freeway.

More information on the plan’s specifics can be found by clicking here.

Ron Pulice, who is spearheading the effort for the Montecito Association, serves on the organization’s transportation sub-committee and also served as chairman of Pulice Construction Inc. for 20 years, which specializes in transportation projects.

Pulice told Noozhawk that Caltrans had been “tremendously scornful” of the group’s alternative, and that the agency’s plans don’t fit in with the community.

“It’s really overkill,” Pulice said. “It’s trying to overlay a [Highway] 405 in this little area.”

Pulice argues that Caltrans could shave $50 million off the plan by preserving the two existing ramps, and could complete the project in 20 months. By preserving the ramps, he said, the surrounding community would be less impacted by the construction.

If not, “it would be bumper to bumper for 4½ years,” Pulice said. “This would be something that would terrorize our village.”

But Gregg Hart of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments said the ramps must be changed for a good reason — the Federal Highway Administration has documented that left-hand ramps have twice as many accidents.

“Fundamentally, drivers don’t expect to get off,” he said. “People don’t expect quick movements from right to left.”

Hart said Caltrans has recorded that accidents at the Cabrillo off-ramp are 1½ times the statewide accident rate.

He concedes that there are other right-hand ramps that have higher accident rates, but “every ramp has a story and every ramp has its own issues. ... The idea is that you fix the problem.”

Caltrans discussed alternatives with the Montecito Association very early on, since the first public meeting in 2008, Hart said, but added that they could not agree to keep the ramps.

“It’s simply a safety consideration,” he said. “Caltrans will be liable.”

While the Montecito Association says build less, Hart said Caltrans may have a better way to construct the same project so as to minimize impacts on the community.

“Maybe we work on the weekends, or later into the night or provide other detours around the construction. ... There are a lot of different ways to solve the same problem,” he said. “The Montecito Association is only seeing one solution and not being open to a dialogue. ... That’s been difficult and frustrating.”

A full draft of the EIR for the project is expected to be released in October, and Hart said SBCAG is responding to all of the public comment gathered and doing additional analysis.

Sometime this spring, Hart said, Caltrans will return to the SBCAG board to share its analysis of the Montecito Association’s alternatives.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.d

» on 02.26.13 @ 08:54 AM

My ancestors rode into Santa Barbara on horse drawn carriages on dirt roads, well before asphalt and concrete became the norm. We have seen transportation planning evolve , not always for the better.
The story of losing Stanley’s beach to poor Caltrans planning is relevant here. In about 1969 , Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers decided to dump thousands of tons of boulders on top of one of our most treasured beaches and surf breaks. That wonderful spot was called Stanley’s, and Caltrans wiped it out to create an offramp. An offramp that had design alternatives that could have saved Stanley’s. Nobody stood up and Stanley’s is gone forever.
Now we have a group willing to question the despotic planning process of Caltrans and I feel we should support them. These are not the same nimby wankers that postponed freeway expansion in the past . This group includes people with vast experience in building and designing transportation systems. We should listen to them.
For those interested in the story of Stanley’s beach , try this link or search ” Stanley’s a lost treasure” on YouTube.;_uri=/watch?v=SVz5o3xrNiU

» on 02.26.13 @ 08:58 AM

Montecito = NIMBY

» on 02.26.13 @ 09:48 AM

This is easy for people who never would use the HOV lanes to argue for eliminating them from the freeway plan. These guys from Montecito Association do not care about the rest of us, but they are free to comment at length in the upcoming Environmental Impact Report.

» on 02.26.13 @ 11:47 AM

Shades of 20 years ago and Montecito privilege killing the 101 widening project that Measure D- now Measure A- promised. These people think that 101 exists for their special quaint left lane exits?! How very bizarre.  All weve heard about for years is “101 HOV” as a priority.  and now this?

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:21 PM

The sniveling of the poor rich in Montecito echoes an earlier suite of such drivel when the freeway was enlarged through Santa Barbara.  At that time, a vocal few percent carried on and on for years while the other 99% of us remained frustrated by injurious accidents, traffic jams and stoplights.

Unfortunately for the Montecito Minority, this time Caltrans has it right.  That stretch of 101 is LONG overdue for some HOV lanes, right hand-only exits, and other sensible improvements.  Get off your pity pots, Montecito whiners, and let’s get a road that won’t leave us with additional and unnecessary deaths and injuries, and yet more traffic jams another decade “down the road.”

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:36 PM

The simple solution is close Sheffield southbound ramp and access Jamison via San Ysidro.
Leave Hot Springs as is and start digital warning signs at Garden that traffic must bear right to exit onto Hot Springs. They could try that now before construction and see how it goes. All the major traffic interchanges in San Jose and Sacramento successfully warn that traffic must move to certain lanes so why not here.

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:40 PM

The NIMBY’s are hard at work I see.  Well thought out planning strives to achieve balance between the people and the environment….and by the people, I don’t mean just those in Montecito.  There are those who would take us back to the days of stoplights on the 101 through downtown Santa Barbara.  As the population grows and the demographics change, so must the infrastructure to accommodate them.

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:41 PM

I remember when the horticulture teacher at SBCC lost his leg in an accident on the left-hand on ramp that was recently removed.  Left side on ramps and off ramps are dangerous - with three lanes, even more so.

» on 02.26.13 @ 12:52 PM

Montecito Residents - would you rather have a little noise for a year or have to hear the noise of idling vehicles and being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic?

Widen the freeway and let the tourists and those traveling the 101 corridor through the area as quickly as possible.

Life will be better when it is done.

» on 02.26.13 @ 01:24 PM

The M.A. Sould be billed by the taxpayers for the costs of the delays caused by their self-indulgent, arrogant attempt to derail the project for which Measure A was enacted.

» on 02.26.13 @ 02:00 PM

Yes, the Montecito Association resists any attempt to change anything near them. As a result, the cell service is lousy and the 101 is a pollution-belching traffic jam at least twice a day.

I’m not a big fan of Brother CalTrans, but I’m guessing that, since the Montecito Association has been so obstreperous (sp?) in the past, their design, even if it is a good one, is not being taken seriously. 

Look at the traffic circle at the west end of Coast Village Road.  The moaning and whining from the MA was deafening, but the circle is a HUGE improvement from the nightmare that was there before.

Time to expand the 101.  Montecito, please think of the other people who use this major highway, sit down, and shut up.

» on 02.26.13 @ 02:29 PM

GeeWillikersWally you make a great point.  Cool video.

The denial of reality by the MA and its patrons has put us into this situation.  They and they alone are to blame for the myopia and costs associated with the 101.  But the real issue is not a larger freeway, its why we have to import 25k people everyday into SB from the south… Why do we have so many people driving 30+miles every day to work here?  And why dont we build a damn train to haul most of these folks north?  That alone would solve a major part of our transportation and traffic problem but we ignore the obvious and instead continue to piece meal together a sloppy alternative…

» on 02.26.13 @ 02:32 PM

Opps!I meant the digital signs should warn that the trafic exiting Hot Springs need to merge left.

» on 02.26.13 @ 03:58 PM

Well, since we are venting about the MA how about the Miramar eyesore which would not have been there if the Montecito elite would have supported Ty Warner’s efforts when he owned the property instead of being as critical as they were when he chose to update the Coral Casino. He would not put up with them and sold the property. Think of all the years of lost property tax and hotel tax revenue.

» on 02.26.13 @ 06:48 PM

This is another example of how wealthy people get more attention and consideration than everyone else. If this was in Orcutt, does anyone honestly think their community group would get any traction from the SBCAG board?

The real problem here is these are Salud’s constituents (translation: cash cow) and the other SBCAG board members are afraid to shut down Salud and the MA for fear of political reprisal.

The community and region have waited over 20 years for the 101 widening. We should all make our voices heard about this, and get the project built ASAP.

» on 02.26.13 @ 08:25 PM

The supposed impetus for the Montecito Associations Big New Plan is to save the taxpayers a bunch of money and reduce the ‘footprint’ of the Massive New Freeway Boogeyman. The Busybody Alumni are at it again!

Despite the Big New Plan, and all the politicians being drawn into the fray so we can see how Big and Powerful the MA (part of it anyway) is, Caltrans is not about to keep the left-hand ramps, nor is the Governor going to step in and validate these Einsteins. Try shopping the Big New Plan (BNP) over there at Los Patos by the bird refuge.

The supposed ‘expertise’? One of the guys’ dad was a civil engineer, and they buffed up the former Secretary of Transportation to gush, post cocktail hour, about the Big New Plan. Wow, but I’m underwhelmed over here.

As far as saving us money, is the MA going to step up to the plate to pay off the inevitable left-handed ramp lawsuits? Let me guess, uh, no? So much for that benefit. As for the Freeway Footprint, moving the edge of the road over 6-8 inches, which is about all that’s left to expand into, isn’t going to ruin my day. In fact I’ll hardly notice as I rip on by in the new HOV lane. Montecito? I think we missed it.

Oh, and did the MA mention that for their plan to work, Los Patos businesses get totally thrown under the bus? Their nice little business zone becomes a truck stop and fast food bags are the new view across the Bird Refuge, like a parade of paper lanterns. Of course these unintended consequences aren’t going to be discussed and will be left for others to deal with later..

Yes, the Freedom Riders at the Montecito Association have our backs! Yep! And there were WMD’s in Iraq, Clinton didn’t have sex with that woman and the Miramar will be up and running in a few weeks.

» on 02.27.13 @ 02:20 AM

There are some inaccuracies being spouted here by Greg Hart and also some commenters. The safety statistics for the two fast lane off ramps ( Hot Springs, Sheffield) defy state averages. Studies of accidents at these two locations reveal rates lower than state averages for slow lane offs, let alone fast lane offs.  Hart and others should not distort the facts . These two fast lane off ramps are not causing higher rates of accidents.
It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that reducing the number of off ramps will force more cars onto already congested surface streets.
Also confusing is the willingness of some of our known anti “big gubment” types to suddenly be so trusting of an autocratic government agency such as Caltrans. Why the flip flopping fellas?

» on 02.27.13 @ 12:58 PM

Anything government does seems to run poorly.

» on 02.27.13 @ 01:36 PM

Gee Wally, let me see…

You’re advocating we leave the left-lane off-ramps even though it goes against every modern day highway design manual or standard, because…what, exactly?

And the assertion that Montecito Assn wants to save the taxpayers money is absurd. The cost of doing the widening project 20 years ago was around $150 million, when the Montecito Assn. effectively killed the project. Now the price tag is over $500 million. Thanks for saving us taxpayers money.

» on 02.27.13 @ 03:29 PM

The elimination of the left hand ramps is required to satisfy the HOV design. You cannot have an HOV lane that is restricted and then interrupt it with on/off ramps. The corrections must be made if we are going to require the new lanes be restricted access.

As for the safety aspects I agree with Willie they are nebulous at best. I also share Willie’s consternation with Caltrans. Most of the anti freeway, anti building, anti development hysteria in this state is a direct result of the state highway department’s idiotic bulldoze mentality.

I have been at odds with Caltrans since studying architecture 40 years ago and realized that one of the most beautiful states was building the world’s ugliest freeway systems. Caltrans squeezed more mileage out of the “cost of right-of-way” argument then any other transportation organization in the country. They abused that argument to pass off sloppy lazy utilitarian designs that are a defacto embarrassment, not to mention creating the giant anti freeway religion than now stymies anything.

Unfortunately, knee jerk reaction by the public did not produce better roads or a better Caltrans. Instead it made vastly more expensive roads, fewer of them and built even more crappy than ever before. We need the freeway widened, we needed it done 40 years ago. If Caltrans had not made the insane remark at a public hearing that they preferred to pave right-of-way to right-of-way and eliminate those pesky trees along the Montecito corridor I don’t believe there would be an issue today (and yes I checked the plans and no they don’t need to clear cut the vegetation to accomplish the widening goal). Of all the stupid things for a government agency to do.

The lazy mentality of Caltrans lives on. But the way to correct that is to be vigilant citizens, not knee jerkers just saying no to everything.

» on 02.27.13 @ 09:22 PM

Here’s a good one for all you Caltransvestites.  Due to another miscalculation by your revered agency, the new paving just done in the area of Bailard overpass will have to be ripped out and lowered. Story is that they botched the elevations and will now have to rip out 800 feet of new pavement to achieve the necessary minimum height. This is the agency that you guys think has a handle on freeway planning through Montecito ?  Wanna buy a bridge ?

» on 02.28.13 @ 11:59 AM

Typical Willie, reminds me of the parking garage fiasco behind the Granada. If you ever wondered why I became a libertarian…

» on 02.28.13 @ 12:24 PM

I’m not by any stretch arguing Caltrans is perfect. Far from it. But, with respect to the 101 Widening project, they’ve got it right, and have a pretty good PM in Scott Eades.

I have yet to see any credible engineering study refuting the Caltrans design. If there is one, please share details here Willy. And remember, I said CREDIBLE engineering study. Not some conjecture thrown together by someone who’s dad maybe used to live next door to a civil engineer or some such BS.

» on 02.28.13 @ 06:48 PM

VoR, that is a lot to say. They are widening the roadway, they got that right. They are eliminating the left hand ramps, they got that right. Out side of those two items what else are you referring to, culvert design, median width, sound walls, finish landscaping, landscape protection during construction, pavement type, bridge design, bridge abutments, lighting standards and placement and so on? I don’t know Scott and honestly most of the ground level folks I have dealt with at Caltrans are pretty good. My beef has always been with Sacramento, the high level guys micromanaging the engineers and designers with egos and now politics.

I said before you can’t fix bad by just saying no to everything. By the same token you can’t do it by always saying yes to everything as well.

» on 03.01.13 @ 02:03 PM

I did some research on the Montecito Association.  The idea that the represent Montecito is their own self-designation.  Their membership is about 10% of the Montecito population.  Active members number about 30, i.e. about .003, 3 tenths of .one percent of the Montecito population.  These are the miniscule minority that are blocking cell phone and 101 improvements for the rest of us.

» on 03.02.13 @ 02:13 AM

Locke , how is eliminating offramps that have low accident statistics an improvement in your mind ? Why are sound walls that wipe out the treasured view of Fernald Point a good idea to you?  You and all your anti big gubment buddies strangely want to trust an autocratic government planning agency hell bent on bringing the 405 to Santa Barbara.  Weird double standards.

» on 03.02.13 @ 11:18 AM

Wally, you’re starting to reveal yourself as a bit ignorant. This is not a Santa Barbara issue. It’s a US ROUTE, that servers as an inter-regional transportation corridor. It traverses the entire west coast of the US.

There are federal and state design standards that are in place to ensure uniform and safe travel of the motoring public. I’m sorry you don’t like or trust government, but it actually is necessary for large programs, like national defense or national highway standards. Can you imagine what it would be like if each city or county in the country could determine it’s own design standards, traffic signs, etc.?

And AN50, I agree with you. Caltrans has it right on the “big picture” items, but now that the concept has been established they should allow private engineering consultants to do the detail work. It would be way more efficient that way. In this case, that decision rests with SBCAG, so as locals we can use our voices to encourage that to happen ASAP.

» on 03.03.13 @ 01:30 PM

Willie, I explained why the ramps must change. It was actually a requirement of local government SBCAG that any new lane addition on the south coast be HOV. That necessitates the removal of all lefty ramps. It has nothing to do with safety. VoR, this is why local government can’t be trusted to tie its shoes let along design a modern highway, far too much emphasis on dopy social engineering rather than traffic engineering.

As I stated earlier, the design could have been done better in order to accommodate much needed lanes and preserve the beauty of the wooded section of highway through Montecito. Caltrans doesn’t like vegetation and SBCAG is too wrapped up in stupid and largely useless micromanaging of driver behavior. The result? Another massive waste of taxpayer money on something a kid with a box of tinker toys could have done better with.

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