Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 4:23 pm | Fair 70º


Counties Make Funding Pitch to State Commission for Highway 101 Widening Project

California Transportation Commission visits Santa Barbara for a regional gathering focused on the future of the corridor

Five counties gathered with the California Transportation Commission in Santa Barbara on Thursday to discuss the importance of the Highway 101 corridor and the millions of dollars still needed to complete the widening project between Santa Barbara and Mussel Shoals in Ventura County.

Caltrans District 5 Director Richard Krumholtz and representatives from Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties said that every Highway 101 improvement project benefits the entire region since it and Interstate 5 are the only north-to-south corridors connecting the state.

They presented projects that have been recently finished or are under construction to communicate that they are good stewards of state money and to emphasize the importance of the coastal region of Highway 101.

Jim Kemp, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, said Interstate 5 is “surprisingly frequently closed” and if Highway 101 was closed, it would cut the southern part of the state off from the north.

The stretch of road between Santa Barbara and Ventura often results in a bottleneck during commute times, and the widening project, dubbed “a lane and a train,” would add a high-occupancy vehicle lane and direct, frequent passenger train trips along the coast for commuters. It would also improve interchanges at Carpinteria’s Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass.

So far, Santa Barbara County has two-thirds of the funding for the $425 million project and asked the CTC to consider funding the other $150 million.

The 2040 forecast shows that traffic volume will far exceed the capacity of the current freeway, officials said.

Representatives from many counties said they envied Santa Barbara’s success at passing transportation-related tax measures — A and D — and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said voters are more likely to support something if they know the tax increment is spent locally and has direct oversight.

Everyone is coming to the table asking for money right now, Goleta City Councilman Roger Aceves said, but he suggested defense spending as a potential untapped resource. The Central Coast’s Vandenberg Air Force Base and Point Mugu have the responsibility to maintain access to their facilities, he added.

Kemp said the county has a clear plan and is on the road to implementing it, but needs help. The entire Central Coast coalition of five counties supports the project.

SBCAG’s other “asks” included supporting capital funding for the Metrolink rail service track improvements and rail siding projects so freight and passenger trains can effectively share the track.

Capital project funding comes from many more sources now; 70 percent of transportation money comes from local sources, and state funds take care of only 24 percent of need requests, according to Commissioner James Ghielmetti.

“It’s like all going to a potluck dinner and hoping you’re getting a full meal,” Commissioner Fran Inman said.

Commission members said they would keep an open mind with the presentation, and toured the Milpas and Hot Spring area construction site after the meeting.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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