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Santa Barbara Council Postpones Decision on De la Vina Intersection Improvements

After a lengthy discussion about bulb-outs and a proposal from MNS Engineers, the council votes to have city staff come up with other options

The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday to tackle intersection improvements on De la Vina Street at a later date, but only after a lengthy discussion about how to best protect pedestrians, cyclists and drivers on the thoroughfare.

The intersections slated for improvements are located at De la Vina and Figueroa streets and at De la Vina and Canon Perdido streets.

In 2006, the City Council authorized a contract with MNS Engineers to analyze safety at the intersections. Both intersections had a higher collision rate than the statewide rate at the time of the study, according to staff reports.

The De la Vina and Figueroa intersection was also a way for the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District to transition back to the transit center on Chapala Street. One fatality occurred in 2009 when a pedestrian was struck by a bus, and that bus route has since moved to Anapamu Street, moving about 225 bus trips a day from De la Vina. In 2010, no collisions were reported at the intersection.

MNS Engineers recommended that the intersection include a multiway stop for all directions along with curb extensions and additional street lighting. The council voted 4-2 to have staff come back with more options, including one that looks only at striping and lighting in the area, another with bulbouts on certain corners of the intersection, and a third option being what MNS Engineers had initially proposed.

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss and Councilwoman Michael Self dissented, saying they would rather settle the issue.

Grant funding for the improvements at De la Vina and Figueroa is available, but not for Canon Perdido, and it’s unclear when funding might be available. Staff will also report back on the Canon Perdido intersection for a final decision.

Much of Tuesday’s discussion centered on the efficacy of bulb-outs as a safety device for pedestrians and cyclists. Self showed a DVD of a rollover accident downtown on Garden and Islay streets, then asked a police officer what difference he noticed between accidents at intersections with bulb-outs and those without.

“He said, ‘I can tell you that the frequency and the severity is much greater,’” Self recounted.

She also showed several newspaper clippings of rollover accidents, as well as pictures of worn-down curbs across the city.

“Beware of safety improvements,” she said.

Of the bulb-outs, “I think they’re sort of dangerous,” Hotchkiss said, but added that he would support other efforts, such as improving sight lines by removing trees along De la Vina’s corridor.

Councilman Grant House said he fully supported the plan MNS Engineers put forward and spoke in favor of the curb extensions.

“These are really appropriate responses to the neighborhood’s concerns,” he said.

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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