Project rendering shows how landscaping will connect the Chumash Museum with Highway 246. (Courtesy photo)

Caltrans broke ground this week on the Chumash Museum Highway Beautification project along a stretch of State Route 246 near Santa Ynez.

The project is made possible through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Clean California initiative, a sweeping, $1.2 billion, multiyear clean-up effort led by Caltrans to remove trash, create thousands of jobs and join with communities throughout the state to reclaim, transform and beautify public spaces.
The $1.3 million Chumash Museum Highway Beautification project — the first of 12 Clean California-funded Central Coast beautification projects to break ground — will improve a half-mile section of the highway by installing artistic fencing, native plant landscaping, upgraded irrigation using recycled water, decorative crosswalks for pedestrians and bicyclists, and better directional signage.

“The Santa Ynez Valley has been a home to the Chumash people for thousands of years so it’s deeply gratifying for Caltrans to be able to work with the tribe on this project to create a gateway to the new Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center,” said Caltrans Director Tony Tavares.

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Chairman Kenneth Kahn joined State Sen. Monique Limon, a representative for Santa Barbara County District 3 Supervisor Joan Hartmann and Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins for the groundbreaking ceremony near the future Chumash Museum.

The Clean California project is scheduled for completion in spring 2023.

“This strong partnership with Caltrans has resulted in welcome transportation improvements that will enhance the user experience at our adjacent museum when it opens next year,” said Kahn.

“I’m proud to coordinate with local partners like the Chumash tribe to create highway elements that will beautify this busy, scenic route,” Gubbins said.

This project is among 126 Clean California beautification projects worth $312 million designed to transform communities and create connectivity along the state highway system.

There are an additional 105 projects statewide funded by nearly $300 million in Clean California local grants to remove litter and transform public spaces in underserved communities. Collectively, these projects are expected to generate 7,200 jobs. The new state budget includes $100 million to fund another round of Clean California local grant projects.

Since launching Clean California in July 2021, Caltrans has removed more than 1 million cubic yards of litter from state highways — the equivalent of 17,000 tons or enough to fill 317 Olympic-size swimming pools — and hired 767 new team members as part of Clean California, including 430 maintenance workers who collect litter and remove graffiti.

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Current conditions of Highway 246 and the under-construction Chumash Museum.