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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 7:08 am | Fair 43º


Bulb-Outs Taking Shape, with Construction Set to End This Month

Curb extensions are added along Chapala and De la Vina streets as part of the $3.75 million West Downtown Pedestrian Improvement Project

Many Santa Barbara residents have been wondering when construction on the West Downtown Pedestrian Improvement Project — the curb extensions, or “bulb-outs,” along Chapala and De la Vina streets — will be completed.

City engineer Eric Maple told Noozhawk that the $3.75 million project, which includes curb extensions called bulb-outs that are designed to slow traffic and increase pedestrians’ visibility and line of sight out into traffic along the Anapamu and Ortega street corridors, is scheduled to be completed by the end of July.

Bulb-outs have been a source of contention from the get-go, dividing residents and policy-makers over their efficacy. In addition, continuous construction centered on some of the city’s busier intersections has raised the ire of the project’s detractors, including Scott Wenz, who has been vocal in his opposition of the project.

“The city of Santa Barbara’s transportation division has intentionally given false and misleading information about the effectiveness and safety of bulb-outs,” said Wenz, who filed a public records request with the city to obtain documentation supporting officials’ claims that bulb-outs are both safe and would slow down traffic.

“They didn’t have a thing — no studies, no reports, nothing. It was an out-and-out lie.”

Wenz said that the city of Ojai had installed bulb-outs at several locations a number of years ago, but by 2003, the Ojai City Council voted to remove them.

Santa Barbara city transportation planner Rob Dayton said the curb extensions are a way to better balance vehicular and pedestrian traffic flows, but Wenz and others are convinced they’re a way to create inconveniences aimed at forcing people out of their cars.

“This is about constricting traffic to force people out of their automobiles,” he said, adding that he is in favor of alternative transportation and rides 50 to 70 miles per week on his bicycle. “People have to have the right to choose. For whatever reason, the general public has chosen to use the auto, and they’ve largely ignored the bike and the bus as modes of transportation.”

Although many people have been more or less evenly divided along ideological lines regarding bulb-outs, they have had the support of PTA groups, the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition and at least three members of the City Council.

Three months ago, the council voted 4-3 to deny an appeal that a business owner and several members of the community had filed to strike down a curb extension on the northwest corner of the intersection of Milpas and de la Guerra streets. Councilman Das Williams said the approach was merely a way to make the intersection safer for pedestrians and more visible to passing motorists.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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