Lower State Street has become a whole lot busier lately, and big traffic changes and improvements are slated throughout the corridor for the next several years.
John Ewasiuk, principal engineer for the City of Santa Barbara Public Works Department, briefed the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday afternoon about some of the coming changes.
One of the biggest is the narrowing of State Street between Cabrillo Boulevard and Highway 101.
Street improvements have begun around the Entrada de Santa Barbara project, a long-planned hotel complex now in the hands of a third developer trying to bring it to fruition.
The first stage of that project began last week, and Ewasiuk said traffic will soon be narrowed to two lanes from four for the next five or six months during construction, and then remain so afterward. New brick sidewalks and improvements are also planned for the area, he said.
Stage two of the Entrada changes will be triggered by their on-site construction, and the plans for that soon will go before the Planning Commission.
Ewasiuk said his department is hopeful it will be able to get the street improvements completed by July, before the city’s busiest tourist season.
“We really had tried hard to get the developer to start earlier,” and even had issued permits in October, he said. “Better late than never,” he continued, adding that the Entrada team has said it plans to start construction in 2014.
Another big change will be a new Mission Creek bridge on East Cabrillo Boulevard between State Street and Helena Avenue. The bridge was constructed in the early 1900s, Ewasiuk said, and is “deteriorating and in need of rehabilitation.” Its replacement coincides with the improvements being made to lower Mission Creek by the Santa Barbara County Flood Control District.
That portion of the creek is often stagnant and Ewasiuk said it’s only cleaned out when major storms send water through to flush it out. A maintenance project on the State Street bridge is scheduled for a week this spring.
The Cabrillo Boulevard bridge project is expected to start in September 2014 and will take two years to complete. Ewasiuk said the timeline is so long because Rusty’s Pizza Parlor at 15 E. Cabrillo Blvd. is built on the existing bridge, which must be demolished.
“It’s a big project,” he said, adding that one lane in each direction will be kept open during construction.
In all, seven bridges in the neighborhood are being restored, thanks to millions of federal dollars available for bridge repair.
Ewasiuk said a project to replace the bridge at Chapala and Yanonali streets went out to bid this week. That project is expected to start in early June and take about nine months to complete.
A hotel planned at Mason and State streets by local business owner Tony Romasanta also has received approval from the Planning Commission, and could start construction by the summer or early fall.
Another update was presented on the Children’s Museum of Santa Barbara, which is to be built near the train station.
Ewasiuk said the parcels were purchased with Redevelopment Agency monies, and that the state is fighting for that property just as it had with city parking lots.
“The city is trying to maintain that as well,” he said, “If it’s successful, they will be able to proceed.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.