The Carpinteria segment of the Highway 101 widening project is nearly complete, and crews are making progress on sections heading north toward Santa Barbara.
The $700-million project — being overseen by Caltrans and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments — is adding carpool lanes in each direction of the highway, replacing bridges, and constructing new highway ramps between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara.
This current project in Santa Barbara County is Phase 4 of a larger project expanding Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Mussel Shoals in Ventura County, with construction moving south to north.
The Carpinteria carpool lanes are expected to open to vehicles by the end of next week.
The Padaro and Summerland segments of the widening project have been under construction for about a year and a year and a half, respectively.
According to Caltrans and SBCAG, the Highway 101 southbound lanes will be shifted from the median to the newly-constructed side this week, and the Sheffield Drive southbound on-ramp will open on Friday.
Next week, the northbound lanes will be shifted into the median area to allow for work to take place on the northbound side — one of the final components of the Summerland segment of the project.
The new Sheffield Drive northbound on-ramp will be opening next Thursday as the northbound on-ramp at Ortega Hill Road is closing for up to eight months, construction project representative Kirsten Ayars of Ayars & Associates said.
The Montecito and Santa Barbara segments of the widening project are in the planning stages and construction is scheduled for 2023 to 2028, depending on funding and permitting.
Both segments will include a new peak-period carpool lane in each direction, as well as new bridges over Romero, San Ysidro, and Oak creeks in Montecito and reconstruction of the Cabrillo Boulevard interchange in Santa Barbara, according to the project’s website.
While all of the other segments will have or are proposing to have new sound walls installed, the Montecito segment will instead include chain-link fencing with vegetation.
More details on construction updates and specific ramp closures are available on the SB Roads website.
CHP Provides Collision Statistics for Highway 101 Construction Zones
There have been many dramatic vehicle crashes in the construction zone over the past few years, including recent incidents where one direction of the highway was blocked and closed for hours.
Concrete barriers line the lanes in part of the project area, creating a driving channel with no shoulders. The orientation of the lanes has also changed to accommodate construction.
California Highway Patrol recently reported collision statistics within the construction zone to the SBCAG board.
CHP Santa Barbara Area Commander Captain Mike Logie said from January 2021 to April 2022, the construction zone area — about 10.54 miles between the Ventura County line and Olive Mill Road — had 384 vehicle crashes in this period.
For comparison, there were 433 collisions in the stretch of about 12 miles just past the construction zone, from Olive Mill Road to Fairview Avenue in Goleta, in the same time period, he said.
“We’re not seeing an astronomical rise within that construction zone,” Logie said. “While we don’t want to see any crashes, we want to give context that this is not out of order compared to what we’re seeing in other parts of the freeway.”
Of the 384 collisions in the construction zones, 68% resulted in property damage and no injuries, and 23% had injuries.
The presentation also showed that construction zone crashes accounted for 23% of all crashes recorded by CHP Santa Barbara Area in this time period.
Logie said that the leading cause of these crashes were determined to be unsafe speeding, followed by unsafe turning — which accounted for 198 crashes and 111 crashes, respectively. DUIs were the cause of 26 collisions and the remaining 49 crashes had other causes.
“There’s an underlying factor here, which is kind of the elephant in the room — distracted driving. It’s one of those things where we cannot really capture that data, but I can tell you just from my personal experience driving every single day to-and-from Goleta to Oxnard that folks are just not paying attention to the roadway,” Logie said. “I wish we had a way to capture that data because I think it would be very revealing in the causation of these crashes.”
It was also shown that in the construction zone during this period, there were 83 DUI arrests, and 1,953 citations were issued — 66% of which were issued for speeding or distracted driving.
Logie advised drivers to drive sober and alert, maintain emotional control while driving, avoid distraction, and ensure their vehicles are in sound mechanical condition to contribute to safer roads.
He also emphasized that drivers need to slow down for the 55-mph speed limit in construction zones.
More information on this data can be found here and more information on the Highway 101 construction can be found on the project’s website and Caltrans’ fact sheet from February 2018.
— Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.