Sunday, January 21 , 2018, 8:57 am | Fair 41º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Caltrans Rescinds Monday Reopening Date for Highway 101

No new estimate on when the highway will reopen between Santa Barbara and Ventura; search for possible additional flood victims slowing cleanup effort through Montecito

Work continued Friday on the cleanup of Highway 101 through Montecito, which has been shut down since Tuesday’s flash flooding. Caltrans announced it was rescinding its Monday target date for reopening the freeway. Click to view larger
Work continued Friday on the cleanup of Highway 101 through Montecito, which has been shut down since Tuesday’s flash flooding. Caltrans announced it was rescinding its Monday target date for reopening the freeway. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

The transportation problems associated with the closure of Highway 101 in Montecito due to this week's flooding won’t end on Monday as expected, bad news for commuters and others who travel the busy north-south route.

Caltrans officials on Friday sent out a notice saying “the estimated opening date of Monday, Jan. 15, is being rescinded and the estimated opening is unknown.”

The freeway has been closed since Tuesday at Milpas Street on the southbound side and Highway 150 on the northbound side.

Huge amounts of mud, water, boulders and debris filled the freeway lanes below Montecito due to the flash flooding that occurred early Tuesday morning after heavy rains fell over the Thomas Fire burn area.

The clean-up and repair are being hampered by the need to search for possible additional victims from the flooding that thus far has claimed at least 18 lives.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Montecito Creek, which crosses under the freeway midway between Olive Mill Road and San Ysidro Road, is not flowing down its normal course, but instead is dumping onto the freeway, Tom Fayram, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department, told Noozhawk Friday afternoon.

"We have to find out how to get the creek back into the creekbed," Fayram said. "Until we fix that, 101 won't be fixed, so that's going to be job one tomorrow."

Capt. Cindy Pontes of the California Highway Patrol echoed Fayram's assessment:

"We have enough resources, it’s just that we can’t get the water to stop coming in. So once we find that solution, we can really get a handle on it."

She declined to provide a new estimate of when the freeway would reopen.

"It's truly unknown at this time," she said.

The troubled section east of Olive Mill Road is nearly a mile long, Pontes said after taking a helicopter tour of the area. She noted that the water was deeper there on Friday than it was immediately after the deluge on Tuesday.

“We understand the impact that the closure of Highway 101 has on the people of California," said Sara von Schwind, Caltrans District 5 deputy district director of maintenance and operations. "We are teamed up with partner agencies responding to this tragedy and are working 24/7 to make progress toward re-opening U.S. 101, while being cooperative with the search efforts underway.

”This is the department’s highest priority and we are working in close coordination with incident command to get the job done as safely and quickly as possible.”

Motorists may detour from the south by using Highway 126 to Interstate 5 north to Highway 166 or Highway 46 to Highway 101 north.

Motorists may detour from the north from Highway 101 to Highway 46 or Highway 166 to Interstate 5 south to Highway 126 west to Highway 101 south.

The southbound freeway onramps have been reopened beginning at Evans Avenue in Summerland and heading south, according to CHP Capt. Cindy Pontes.

Amtrak has restarted passenger rail service between Santa Barbara and Ventura, and Island Packers and the Condor Express are offering ferry service from Ventura Harbor to Santa Barbara Harbor during the Highway 101 closure.

Amtrak is adding cars to select Pacific Surfliner trains operating through the weekend, according to Gregg Hart of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

"Due to the limited transportation options, Pacific Surfliner trains are experiencing very high passenger loads on trains traveling through the area," Hart said, noting that it is not possible to add more trains at this point due to ongoing cleanup efforts.

Check road closure information on the Caltrans website here and the Quickmap site with other highway information.

Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.



Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >