Friday, March 23 , 2018, 9:29 am | Fair 55º


Local News

Santa Barbara Highway 101 Widening Project Survives State Transportation Funding Cuts

It appears the southern Santa Barbara County Highway 101 widening project escaped statewide funding cuts as the California Transportation Commission plans to eliminate $750 million in previously-funded STIP projects.

The move is unprecedented, said Jim Kemp, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

State Transportation Improvement Program funding, or STIP, is being revoked from approved projects due to declining gas tax revenues, Kemp told the SBCAG board at Thursday’s meeting.

There are two local projects with committed STIP funding: the Highway 101 widening project and the Ekwill Street/Fowler Road extension project in Goleta.

After talks with both the CTC staff and Caltrans, SBCAG negotiated a way to keep most of the Highway 101 STIP funding and delay some funding for the Fowler Road extension, Kemp said.

About $5 million in engineering work funding from Caltrans’ portion of STIP money was cut, but Caltrans came up with $2 million from another project to help out, Kemp said.

The rest will be backfilled with local Measure A funding that was already allocated by the SBCAG board.

Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty told SBCAG “unequivocally” that the Highway 101 project is a priority for Caltrans and will bring back funding as soon as possible, Kemp said.

The Ekwill/Fowler extension project was split into two phases, with the Ekwill Street extension set for $9.3 million and the Fowler Road extension’s $2.1 million deleted and reprogrammed for the 2019-20 funding year, Kemp said.

It’s not ideal, but all programs stayed intact and continue moving forward, he told the board.

SBCAG director Michael Bennett, a Goleta councilman, said Goleta will generate $120 million in STIP funding and is programmed to get $47 million back.

“I find it very distasteful that we are often the ones seeing the cuts and the impacts,” he said.

For the Highway 101 widening project, the SBCAG board is sending a letter to Caltrans asking to recirculate the environmental documents quickly to keep the project moving along.

In December, a Superior Court judge ordered Caltrans to revise and recirculate portions of the environmental impact report, finding that it was inadequate in the way it analyzes traffic impacts.

“We urge Caltrans to complete the analysis and recirculate the revisions to the EIR for public review as quickly as possible,” the SBCAG letter says.

“Responding quickly and completely to the writ of mandate will help maintain the project’s momentum and reassure the public that Caltrans and SBCAG are committed to completing this long-promised project.”

Phase 3 of the project, the Carpinteria Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass interchange, is going out to bid right now, Kemp said.

The last phase is adding a third, carpool lane in each direction for the 10-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria.

Kemp is retiring this year after 34 years with SBCAG, and plans to leave in October.

It’s not set — no cruises are booked yet, he joked — and he wants to ensure a smooth transition.

“We are definitely going to miss you, your expertise and advocacy on behalf of all our constituents in the county,” said Chairwoman Janet Wolf, Second District county supervisor. 

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.

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