A $53-million price tag and changing political sentiment could spell doom for a proposed bridge over Highway 101 in western Goleta.
“There’s not a lot of juice for the amount of squeeze,” Councilman James Kyriaco said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
“It doesn’t seem like we are going to get a lot of beneficial impacts. I want to do anything I can to reduce traffic at Hollister and Storke, but is this project gonna get us there?”
The city’s General Plan calls for a bridge over Highway 101 that connects Hollister Avenue to Calle Real near the Ellwood area. The idea was to reduce traffic at Storke Road and Hollister Avenue.
The latest version of the proposal called for a vehicle, pedestrian and bike bridge, and that was moving forward until funding issues stalled it in 2010.
Now, an engineer’s report says it would cost $53 million and would only reduce traffic trips by 200 vehicles per day in the Storke Road and Hollister Avenue area.
Goleta has experienced a sudden jump in traffic in the past five years after a flurry of construction projects, including hotels, housing, restaurants and retail.
Still, councilmembers said that an overpass in that spot may not bring good value to the city.
“We could be taking 15, 20 years to do this project,” Councilman Stuart Kasdin said.
Mayor Paula Perotte too balked at the price tag of the project.
She said the original idea in the mid-1990s called for a pedestrian and bike bridge, but the project evolved into a vehicular bridge because there was an assumption that it would qualify for more grant funding if vehicles were involved.
Goleta planning officials said they are skeptical it would receive substantial grant funding, since the project connects neighborhoods but does not provide a regional benefit.
Some of the councilmembers suggested reducing the project to a pedestrian and bike bridge to reduce the cost.
Only Councilman Roger Aceves pushed for construction of the overpass Tuesday, and said the City Council has an obligation to pursue the project since the concept is in the city’s General Plan.
“The original intent was to reduce traffic at Storke and Hollister,” Aceves said. “If we don’t allow vehicles on the bridge, we may regret it 10, 20 years later. We only get one chance to do this.”
The council did not take a formal vote after Tuesday’s update, but will revisit the project in about six months.
During public comment, Goleta resident Michael Iza said the council needs to slow down.
“There has been zero public input,” Iza said. “It’s hard for me to comprehend how you could make such a huge decision with no public outreach since 2010.”