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Caltrans Signals Willingness to Work with Santa Barbara on Restriping, Ownership of Cliff Drive

The City Council will discuss on Tuesday a plan to increase safety by reducing the road from four lanes to three and adding bike lanes

The five-mile stretch of road that makes up Highway 225 may be that much closer to being owned and maintained by the City of Santa Barbara, according to a letter sent Wednesday from Caltrans. In the meantime, the road may be restriped with fewer lanes and bike lanes.

Highway 225 spans from Montecito and Castillo streets on Santa Barbara’s Lower Westside and snakes around SBCC, blending into Cliff Drive and ending where Las Positas Road meets Highway 101.

The city has been working for several years to come to terms with Caltrans to purchase the span of road, bringing it back into local jurisdiction. Caltrans’ mission is to focus on traffic movement, with less priority on pedestrians and neighborhoods. The city wants to see more improvements in line with the surrounding community.

Cost has been an issue, though, and Caltrans has offered the city $1 million to assume control of the road, but the city believes that amount is about $300,000 short of what’s needed. An additional $355,000 per year also would be needed to fund ongoing maintenance.

But the letter issued Wednesday signals a willingness to work with the city on the issue.

“Caltrans agrees that State Route 225 should eventually be a city facility and looks forward to working with your staff on the details of relinquishment,” Caltrans District Director Rich Krumholz stated in the letter, addressed to Mayor Helene Schneider.

In the meantime, according to the letter, the organization will be working with the city to restripe the road to include fewer lanes — but not before approval from the City Council, which is set to hear the item Tuesday night. Reducing the road from four lanes to three while adding bike lanes in either direction will be up for discussion.

Browning Allen, the transportation, streets and parking manager for the City of Santa Barbara, told Noozhawk that the change in lane configuration would be between Meigs and Loma Alta on Cliff Drive.

“The collision history on the stretch of Cliff is not higher than the state average, but the addition of the center left turn lane will make it safer for left-turning vehicles,” he said. “The addition of bike lanes in each direction is an added benefit once the center left turn lane is added.”

In April, council members listened as Mesa residents implored them to regain local control of the road.

“You basically have a highway bisecting the Mesa,” resident Tom Ochsner said. “Cliff Drive, as a neighborhood street, needs a lot of help.”

As a matter of policy, most of the city leaders agreed that the road should be brought into Santa Barbara’s street system. Cost remained an issue, however, and the council voted 5-2 to proceed with exploring whether the state may come down in price for the stretch of road.

The City Council will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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