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Local News

Highway 101 Overcrossing Project Circles Back for More Public Input

Goleta residents weigh in on the most recent alternatives for the west end of the city

Once again, Goleta residents converged Wednesday night, this time at Brandon School, to weigh in on a major infrastructure project proposed for the west side of the city — the Highway 101 overcrossing.

Valerie Kushnerov, public information officer for the City of Goleta, said the turnout was high, with residents commenting on the newest proposed versions of the project.

“We’ve had great interest, in spite of the fact that it’s Game One of the World Series,” she said.

Goleta is bisected by Highway 101, with only a few connections that join the northern half to the southern half, affecting traffic at intersections such as the one at Storke Road and Hollister Avenue just south of the freeway, and Fairview and Calle Real north of the freeway.

Plans to create an additional connection have been around since before city incorporation, but the death of 14-year-old Tina Veloz-Payne in August 2008 was the tragedy that spurred the plans anew. Veloz-Payne was found dead by the side of the freeway after a failed attempt to cross it, presumably to avoid having to walk home using the long route from Girsh Park to her El Encanto Heights neighborhood.

Kushnerov said Wednesday’s meeting was a follow-up to an open house held in February on the same topic. This time, however, the 13 original alternatives were condensed to three, and public input that was taken at the February meeting resulted in the creation of a fourth alternative.

“One of the things we didn’t do last time was take time to consider how long it would take to walk,” project manager Rosemarie Gaglione said.

Three of the four alternatives under review start at Entrance Road, a street in the Ellwood area, and cross over Highway 101 and end at either Brandon Drive, San Rossano Drive or near Baker Lane, north of the freeway. One alternative, called “C5,” was eliminated because of its length, impact on the property north of Highway 101 and its $44 million price tag.

The newest alternative starts in a different place — Ellwood Station Road, south of the freeway, and terminates at San Rossano Drive. The three remaining options are similarly priced at about $23 million.

Resident Dennis Pease contemplated the change in the flow of traffic along Hollister Avenue, from where drivers would be turning to get on either Entrance Road or Ellwood Station Road.

“This is so close, they can’t put another light without making it really awkward,” he said about the potential for traffic control at Ellwood Station Road.

The next step in the process is to complete the Project Report with the input from Wednesday’s open house. The overcrossing would accommodate drivers, walkers and cyclists, but function only as a means to make it from one side of the freeway to the other, not as a connection to the freeway.

“This is not a project that’s going to happen next year,” said Councilwoman Margaret Connell, who attended the meeting to hear the concerns aired by residents, mainly about the north end of the proposed overcrossing. She said there were doubts.

The project is expected to take five to seven years to complete, and the city stands poised to seek out funding for the overcrossing. Some of the funds will come from Santa Barbara County’s Measure A transportation half-cent sales tax.

City officials said there will be “numerous opportunities for community feedback.”

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

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