Thursday, May 26 , 2016, 12:05 pm | A Few Clouds 64º

Public Gets Three Chances to Weigh In on Highway 101 Carpool Lanes

Caltrans holding a pair of forums this week, with Montecito Association asking residents to attend a separate meeting next week

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

As Caltrans gears up for this week’s public meetings about the carpool lanes it wants to install on Highway 101 east of Santa Barbara, one community group is calling for residents to sound off about the changes in a different venue.

The Montecito Association issued a statement last week imploring residents to attend a separate forum it will be hosting in May, in addition to two that Caltrans is holding.

Caltrans wants to add carpool lanes — also known as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes — on an 11-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. Officials say the project would reduce traffic congestion while encouraging ride sharing and the use of public transportation.

Last month, the transportation agency released a draft environmental impact report, and is soliciting public input.

“Caltrans parameters for their forum will not include public comments from the floor, but public comments will be recorded separately,” the statement from the Montecito Association said. “Since this phase affects Montecito directly, the Montecito Association encourages all of its members and Montecito residents to get involved.”

The HOV project also would have “substantial adverse visual impacts,” according to the draft EIR, the most significant of which seem to be the effect on the aesthetics of the highway corridor. Sound walls and replacement landscaping are expected to reduce but not eliminate those impacts.

“Because of the inherent alteration of scale, increase of hard surface and loss of vegetative character, substantial adverse visual impacts would remain,” according to the report.

Noise levels are also expected to increase in the project area between zero and three decibels, and the report calls for the installation of sound walls and noise-reducing pavement to lessen the noise impact. The project also could affect several endangered species, such as the tidewater goby and steelhead trout, while two bridges are being replaced over creeks in the project area, and Caltrans would have to mitigate those impacts.

Click here to view the entire draft environmental report.

Public feedback is being solicited on the draft EIR until May 25, and design and permitting are expected to take place from this fall to the fall of 2015. Construction is expected to begin in the summer of 2016.

Caltrans will hold its first forum from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Montecito Country Club, 920 Summit Drive. A second meeting is scheduled for 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday in the cafeteria at Carpinteria High School, 4810 Foothill Road.

The Montecito Association will hold a public forum to hear comments on the proposed plan at 5 p.m. May 1 at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, 1455 East Valley Road. Click here for more information.

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.

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