A groundbreaking ceremony on Monday kicked of construction of the 60 million, four-year Linden and Casitas Pass Project, part of the Highway 101 widening project.

The third phase of the Highway 101 widening project is a step closer in Carpinteria as construction plans kicked off Monday.

The Linden and Casitas Pass Project, a $60 million, four-year construction project, involves upgrading bridges, and improving freeway access and bike and pedestrian routes. 

The project includes reconstructing Highway 101 at Linden Avenue and widening the overcrossing to three lanes.

Trees and sidewalks will also be added on both sides of the road.

Security Paving Inc. will carry out an extension of Via Real that will be connected across Carpinteria Creek continuing to a roundabout at the Ogan Road intersection.

Casitas Pass improvements include the Highway 101 overcrossing to expand to two lanes moving towards the mountains, one lane towards the beach, a left-hand lane to enter southbound Highway 101, and a center landscaped median, along with new sidewalks and bike lanes.

“Leading up to the overpass, the sidewalk will have new trees, lighting and traffic signals,” project spokeswoman Kirsten Ayars said. “It helps plan for the future because the median allows for extra width and can be removed if needed for extra space.”

In addition to a new bridge over Carpinteria Creek on Highway 101 and Via Real, four sound walls will be built to reduce noise as well as a path constructed along the creek under the freeway.

Ayars said the Linden and Casitas Pass Project also includes five new traffic signals in the area.

Although residents have to put up with traffic and noise, the renovations are necessary to prepare for future Highway 101 widening.

“We built the bridges to accommodate future traffic as needed,” Ayars said.

During daytime construction, two lanes in each direction will remain open from fall 2016 to 2020. Nighttime closures will be scheduled as needed. 

“There will be nighttime closures for staging and moving items around, but the majority of work occurs during the day,” Ayars said. “There will be the same amount of lanes open and traffic patterns should stay the same. With other projects, it hasn’t drastically changed the speed of traffic as long as we keep the lanes open.”

Road closure and traffic information can be found by signing up for email updates, Ayars said.

The Linden and Casitas Pass is the first major construction in this area since the freeway was built in the 1950s.

“The contractor will be easing into the construction,” Ayars said. “They will be putting up signs, removing and trimming trees to make a workable space.”

The State Transportation Improvement Program allocated the funds for the project, as well as state and federal funding sources.

The constructions is a partnership between Caltrans, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and the city of Carpinteria

The new bridges, ramps, bikeways and roads are scheduled to open in 2018, 2019 and 2020, Ayars said.

The Linden and Casitas Pass Project is the third phase of widening Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Mussel Shoals.

Eight of the 16 miles in the area have been expanded to include three lanes in each direction, according to Ayars.

Phases 1 and 2, which expanded the freeway between Milpas Street and Hot Springs Road in Montecito and between Carpinteria and La Conchita in Ventura County, have been completed.

Phase 4 will widen 10 miles of freeway between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria by adding high-occupancy vehicle lanes in each direction on Highway 101.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.