A civic group in Santa Barbara has filed with federal officials in Washington, D.C., a detailed report alleging that the California Department of Transportation and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments are illegally attempting to divert $1.5 million in federal roadway funds away from the federal Highway 101 widening project in order to finance a controversial proposal to install suicide barriers on the scenic and historic Cold Spring Bridge.

According to the report to the federal Recovery Board — which oversees fraud, waste and abuse in the allocation and expenditure of federal stimulus funds throughout the country — both Caltrans and SBCAG have been aware since May 2008 that the Caltrans suicide barriers plan is not a legitimate project for either state or federal transportation or traffic safety funding.

At a meeting of the California Transportation Commission, one member described the suicide barriers proposal as “not a road improvement,” “not a traffic problem” and “not a safety issue, maybe a social issue, but not a safety issue.”

The group that filed the report, Friends of the Bridge, is one of several community organizations that have expressed opposition to the suicide barriers plan since it was proposed in 2006, and in July of this year, the group filed legal action in state court to challenge its approval by Caltrans.

“Caltrans and SBCAG have acted like outlaws in trying to rob a lot of money — $1.5 million — from the Highway 101 widening project, and we are asking federal officials to bring them into line,” Friends of the Bridge member Marc McGinnes said.

Click here to view the report and all supporting documentation on the Friends of the Bridge Web site.

— Marc McGinnes is a member of Friends of the Bridge.