The widening of Highway 101 should move more quickly after a key state panel awarded $226 million toward the project.
The money will come from Senate Bill 1 state gas tax funding and will go toward the HOV widening project that eventually will bring a high-occupancy vehicle lane between Santa Barbara and Ventura County.
The 16-mile 101 HOV Widening Project from Santa Barbara to Mussel Shoals in Ventura County is more than half complete, said Gregg Hart, deputy executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
Hart said the California Transportation Commission’s March 21 decision to allocate $226 million in state transportation funds to the 101 HOV project is the first of two steps to fully fund construction of the sections from Bailard Avenue in Carpinteria to the Sheffield Interchange in Montecito.
“This funding allocation is a giant step forward for the 101 project and demonstrates the state’s strong commitment to finishing the 101 HOV project,” Hart said.
The commission is expected to vote on an additional $183 million request from SBCAG for SB 1 funding in May. If awarded the money, construction on the next three segments of the 101 HOV project, from Bailard Avenue in Carpinteria to past the Sheffield Interchange in Montecito, can begin in late 2019.
“Thanks to new transportation money from the SB 1 state gas tax signed into law by Gov. Brown last year, the California Transportation Commission now has funding available to accelerate construction of the 101 HOV Widening Project,” said Marjie Kirn, SBCAG executive director. “We are very excited to be able to continue the forward momentum from the bridge construction work currently underway in Carpinteria.”
The project is funded through the voter-approved Measure A sales tax and additional state and federal funding.
About 10 miles remain to be constructed.
Phase one from Milpas to Hot Springs was completed in 2012. Phase two from Mussel Shoals to Carpinteria was completed in 2015. Phase three, the Linden & Casitas Pass Interchanges Project, is under construction in Carpinteria and is scheduled to be complete in 2019, a year earlier than scheduled, Hart said.
The remaining fourth phase has five segments, which could begin in 2020 or 2021.
» Segment 4A will complete the Highway 101 widening in Carpinteria.
» Segment 4B will continue the widening from the western Carpinteria city limits to the north Padaro Interchange.
» Segment 4C will continue the widening through Summerland and Ortega Hill and include reconstruction of the Sheffield Interchange in Montecito.
The final two segments, 4D through Montecito and 4E for reconstruction of the Hot Springs/Cabrillo Interchange, are planned for construction following segments 4A through 4C.
“Santa Barbara County taxpayers voted to use local Measure A transportation sales tax funds to attract additional state funding for SBCAG’s highest regional transportation priority — constructing new peak-hour carpool lanes on the 101 freeway,” Santa Barbara County Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, also the SBCAG board chair, said. “With the passage of the SB1 new state gas tax, the California Transportation Commission can now bring critically needed state transportation funding to partner with SBCAG and Caltrans to keep the 101 HOV project on track.”
Hart, however, warned of potential obstacles. He said funding from the new state gas tax, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, is critical to maintaining the Highway 101 construction schedule.
Without the reliable, predictable gas tax funding, “there would not even be sufficient funding to maintain the existing state highway system,” Hart said.
A group is working to gather signatures to repeal the tax in November.
“If the gas tax repeal effort currently circulating signatures for the November ballot is successful, state transportation funding will dry up and the 101 HOV project will be stalled,” Hart said.