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Santa Barbara Green Lights Engineering Work on Olive Mill Road Roundabout

Engineering work and environmental review are about to get underway for the Olive Mill Road and San Ysidro Road interchanges, which are being planned as “parallel projects” to the Highway 101 widening through Montecito.

The Santa Barbara City Council last week approved an agreement with Santa Barbara County and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, which is managing the Highway 101 project with Caltrans.

The city is leading the Olive Mill interchange project, which includes the complicated five-way intersection of Coast Village and Olive Mill roads, North Jameson Lane and the Highway 101 entrance and exit ramps). The project would replace the five stop signs with a roundabout.

The county is leading the San Ysidro Road interchange project, which includes the intersections on both sides of Highway 101, with North Jameson Lane and the northbound Highway 101 entrance ramp on one side, and with South Jameson Lane and the southbound Highway 101 exit ramp on the other side.

SBCAG has $850,000 worth of unused federal earmark money for engineering and environmental work on the two interchange projects, but there is no funding to build them, Mayor Helene Schneider pointed out.

Studies conducted by the city’s Public Works Department and Caltrans show that “the existing interchanges will experience vehicle queuing onto the mainline freeway once the 101 HOV Project is completed if improvements are not constructed to enable the interchanges to handle the increased traffic flows created by freeway expansion,” according to a city staff report.

“The study demonstrates that this safety issue at the Olive Mill interchange can be avoided with the installation of a roundabout, which Caltrans has acknowledged as the most viable solution.”

Rob Dayton, the city’s principal transportation planner, told the council on Tuesday that the Olive Mill Road intersection with Coast Village Road and North Jameson Lane is very confusing for motorists and creates a lot of congestion.

The plan is to put a roundabout there, which would push into county jurisdiction as well, he said.

A future southbound Highway 101 entrance ramp at the Cabrillo Boulevard interchange near the west end of Coast Village Road likely will have a positive impact on Coast Village Road traffic, city traffic engineer Derek Bailey said. Even so, the city expects an 18-percent increase in traffic in that intersection in the future, he said.

The City of Santa Barbara is proposing the construction of a roundabout at the Montecito intersection of Olive Mill Road, Coast Village Road, North Jameson Lane and the Highway 101 entrance and exit ramps.
The City of Santa Barbara is proposing the construction of a roundabout at the Montecito intersection of Olive Mill Road, Coast Village Road, North Jameson Lane and the Highway 101 entrance and exit ramps. (City of Santa Barbara illustration)

The council approved the agreement by a 6-0 vote, with Councilman Gregg Hart recusing himself since he also works for SBCAG.

During public comment, Scott Wenz of the Cars Are Basic advocacy group called the proposed Olive Mill Road interchange a “stupid project” and said a roundabout is not friendly to bicycles or pedestrians.

Councilman Frank Hotchkiss said from the dais that it was a chaotic intersection, to which Wenz replied, “It may be chaotic, but it works.”

The city is also working on the Cabrillo Boulevard interchange project, the third “parallel project” to the Highway 101 widening. Dayton said Union Pacific has given its permission for widening the railroad bridge.

Santa Barbara officials have long pushed for these municipal interchanges to be improved alongside the highway widening project, arguing that the freeway improvements will lead to more congestion on city streets.

SBCAG recently announced its intentions to start the final phase of the Highway 101 widening project at its southern end, in Carpinteria.

The Santa Barbara and Montecito portions are more contentious.

After a lawsuit challenging the environmental documents for the project, which would add a third lane in each direction of Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, a Superior Court judge ordered Caltrans to revise and recirculate portions of the environmental impact report.

Judge Tom Anderle agreed with the plaintiffs, saying it was inadequate in its analysis of impacts to local intersections and cumulative traffic impacts from the project.

Noozhawk managing editor 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.

Olive Mill Roundabout Concept by Giana Magnoli on Scribd

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