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Roundabouts on Fast Track for Old Town Goleta and Los Carneros-Calle Real Intersection

The proposed Ekwill Street and Fowler Road Extensions Project aims to alleviate congestion and improve safety

Parts of Old Town Goleta soon may see a new approach to dealing with traffic congestion, according to a proposal put forward by city engineers. Four roundabouts are included in the plan that aims to improve connectivity to, from and within southern Old Town as well as to the Santa Barbara Airport

Reducing congestion along Hollister Avenue is also a goal of the project, known as the Ekwill Street and Fowler Road Extensions Project.

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Traffic in the area has become a growing issue through the years, but few improvements have taken place in the project’s target section.

“Virtually no public improvements have been made to the southern portion of Old Town in more than 50 years,” according to the project’s draft environmental impact report.

Click here to view the DEIR online. The public is invited to submit comments on the plan until Oct. 17.

The improvements are bordered by Hollister Avenue to the north, Highway 217 to the east, Fairview Avenue to the west and Goleta Slough to the south and southwest. Planners are striving to extend Ekwill Street and Fowler Road, which will provide east-west routes between Fairview Avenue and Kellogg Avenue.

Four roundabouts are included in the project, with one slated for the Fowler Road and Fairview Avenue intersection and one for the Ekwill Street and Pine Avenue intersection. Two other roundabouts would be installed at the Highway 217 northbound and southbound on- and off-ramps.

Rosemarie Gaglione, the capital improvement program manager for the City of Goleta, said the project will help reduce congestion in the area and provide additional routes to get to Fairview Avenue from Kellogg.

“It will take some of the peak hour trips off of Hollister,” she said.

A free right-turn lane on southern Kellogg Avenue near Hollister also will be added, as well as modified parking.

Construction is expected to begin in 2013 and would last two to three years, and construction would begin simultaneously on all of the components of the plan.

The price tag for the improvements comes in at $19.8 million, $15.9 of which would come from transportation improvement funds — state money pledged before the financial crisis began. The remainder of the project’s costs will come from the City of Goleta’s Transportation Improvement Plan fund.

The two-lane roundabouts that will serve as off-ramps for Highway 217 can handle the volume equivalent to six lanes of traffic, and Gaglione said landscaping in the center of the roundabouts also will be a plus.

The Ekwill-Fowler project has been around since before Goleta became a city a decade ago.

“Some people in Old Town may feel forgotten,” she said. “The thing is, we’re working so furiously behind the scenes on Ekwill-Fowler and San Jose Creek.”

San Jose Creek improvements and improvements to Hollister have had to go forward first to prevent flooding before the Ekwill-Fowler construction could begin.

The city will hold workshops to familiarize the public with the roundabouts.

“A lot of people don’t like roundabouts because the associate them with the old rotary designs back east,” Gaglione said, adding that when roundabouts are large enough and designed properly, they’re very effective.

Another roundabout is slated for the Los Carneros and Calle Real intersection. There, an increasing number of side-impact collisions prompted the city to make the intersection a three-way stop, and it’s planning to install a roundabout at that location as an even safer alternative.

“When there are collisions (in a roundabout), they’re glancing blows,” Gaglione said. “When someone runs a red light, those are very often serious or fatal.”

The group, Cars Are Basic, took a different viewpoint, however.  In a statement sent to Noozhawk this week, the group says that more traffic on Hollister is inevitable as a result of planned development in Goleta and that roundabouts in the area will add to congestion.

“It is interesting the City of Goleta staff doesn’t seem to want to learn from the experiences in the City of Santa Barbara,” the statement said, adding that Santa Barbara’s roundabouts have increased accidents and don’t eliminate congestion at peak traffic hours.

Goleta hopes to begin construction on the Calle Real roundabout in spring 2012, and Ekwill-Fowler construction will begin in 2013.

The plan has not been completed on the Calle Real roundabout, but workshops are planned for that effort as well. That project is a single-lane roundabout and doesn’t require an environmental impact report.

Santa Barbara Traffic Planner Rob Dayton said the city has received great feedback about the Milpas Street and Coast Village Road roundabouts.

“People love it,” he said. “I think people are surprised at how effective the roundabouts are.”

Farther down on Coast Village Road, discussions are ongoing about how to best tame traffic at the Olive Mill and Coast Village Road intersection. Dayton said a roundabout at that location is under discussion. He said that since that intersection has six points of entry, gated by stop signs, a roundabout there could help with traffic flow.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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