Tuesday, July 17 , 2018, 8:46 am | Overcast 66º


Local News

Santa Barbara Council Hears Update on Related Highway 101 Widening Projects

Santa Barbara City Council members seemed encouraged Tuesday after hearing an update on the Highway 101 widening project, most of which pertained to three side traffic projects that could come to fruition at the same time.

Still facing a $150 million funding gap for the South Coast Highway 101 High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Project, officials called on partners at Caltrans and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments to better collaborate to complete the years-long project.

After all, the longer the widening project takes to get going, the more money the city and other agencies will have to find to finish the job.

The same goes for related projects, including the Union Pacific Bridge Replacement at Cabrillo Boulevard and improvements to the Olive Mill and San Ysidro Road interchanges.

Tony Harris, the consultant hired to oversee the project designed to lessen congestion in the heavily traveled corridor between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, told the council that all parties needed to sign memorandums of understanding outlining each of their roles before obtaining proper environmental documents and, subsequently, more funding from to-be-determined federal and state sources.

He said the project couldn’t afford more delays.

Putting off the project costs about $15 million per year, said Stephen VanDenburgh, SBCAG deputy director of programming and project delivery.

SBCAG already estimates the project could delayed two years while the Santa Barbara-to-Montecito portion is tied up in court, since two groups challenged the project’s environmental impact report as “flawed” and incomplete for failing to address its redirection of congestion onto local intersections and other mitigation measures.

The widening project also has unresolved flood-control concerns with the Carpinteria Creek bridge replacements.

The entire widening project is expected to cost about $435 million and nearly all the funding is local so far, with $140 million from Santa Barbara County’s Measure A and another $135 million from 15 years worth of the county’s share of gas taxes.

Harris suggests designing the project to a 35 percent level instead of designing and permitting the entire project piece by piece. Doing basic engineering design work for the entire corridor at once could attract state and federal funding sources, he said, and completion of that would occur over the next 12 to 18 months.

While Harris works to secure remaining funds, he’s also tracking three projects that also lack funding.

The San Ysidro interchange falls under jurisdiction of the county, but city transportation planner Rob Dayton was able to provide updates on the other projects that are on separate but parallel tracks to highway widening.

The Union Pacific Bridge Replacement at Cabrillo Boulevard has been stalled while agencies work to appease the railroad company, which has thus far disliked SBCAG’s proposed replacements and realignments for the 100-year-old bridge.

Dayton said that project is estimated to cost $28.5 million in 2019 and involves moving highway ramps and widening the bridge tunnels on Cabrillo, all in conference with local agencies.

At the Olive Mill interchange, a study showed a traffic signal would not work but a roundabout could. That project costs $5 million to $10 million and is inside the city and county jurisdiction, Dayton said.

“We need to be advancing all of them forward,” he said.

Public speakers said they were glad the council wasn’t ignoring side projects, but — like council members — wondered where the money would come from.

Councilmen Bendy White and Gregg Hart sparred over whether widening was a good thing, with White worrying about impacts on local roads.

“I think this is an enormously complicated project that takes an awful lot of money,” said Hart, who’s also part of SBCAG. “It’s time to turn the page.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff 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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