This week’s question: How much money would be available for Highway 101 widening if Measure A was amended and all the money was shifted to the widening project?
— Tom Becker
There would be enough to fully fund the rest of the Highway 101 widening project, which is adding a third lane in each direction between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, according to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
SBCAG and Caltrans are shepherding the project, which gets a lot of its funding from the voter-approved Measure A.
Changing the Measure A Investment Plan requires a two-thirds vote from the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments board, said SBCAG spokesman Gregg Hart, who is also a Santa Barbara City Councilman.
“Allocating all of the $37.5 million annual Measure A revenue to the (Highway) 101 project would contradict voter intent and SBCAG board policy,” Hart said.
“While this approach could fully fund the estimated $356 million remaining construction cost of the 101 HOV Project with local funding in 10 years, it would come at the cost of loss of state and federal matching funds and funding for other, important Measure A Investment Plan priorities.”
Measure A money is a critical funding source for local governments in the county to maintain and repair streets and roads, build safer routes to schools, improve bicycle and pedestrian connections and operate regional and local transit services, Hart said.
SBCAG is responsible for distributing the funds for county transportation projects.
The voter-approved investment plan allocates $140 million “off the top” for the Highway 101 widening project and the remaining $910 million Measure A funding generated over 30 years is split evenly between south and north county projects.
Hart said the two separate investment plans, with projects benefiting each region of the county, were created with voter approval and citizen participation.
he plan allocates funding to four major projects over 30 years: $140 million for the Highway 101 widening (about 13 percent of the total); $614 million for local street and road maintenance (58 percent); $168 million for transit and rail (16 percent); and $128 million for local and regional circulation, bicycle and pedestrian improvements (12 percent).
The Measure A Citizens Oversight Committee assures funding is allocated accurately, and the Measure A Investment Plan was carefully built with public input to take into consideration the transportation needs of the county, Hart said.
County voters approved Measure A — the half-cent cent transportation sales tax measure — by 79 percent in 2008.
“The SBCAG board is using regional Measure A funds to leverage state and federal funding and make local tax dollars go farther,” Hart said.
SBCAG has secured $312 million in federal and state funds to construct the initial three phases of the Highway 101 project, which Caltrans calls the South Coast 101 HOV Lanes Project. The additional third lane in each direction is planned to be a high-occupancy vehicle (carpool) lane.
The final phase of the widening project is underway, which adds a third lane in each direction for the 10.9-mile stretch between the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge in Santa Barbara and just south of Bailard Avenue in Carpinteria.
Construction on this phase started in Carpinteria and will work its way north, with crews currently working to rebuild highway overcrossings at Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass Road, and over Carpinteria Creek, and extending Via Real so it meets up with Linden Avenue.
If funding continues on schedule, the Highway 101 project will be completed in 10 years, said SBCAG Executive Director Marjie Kirn.
“Using Measure A funds to leverage other transportation funding is the best strategy and we should stay the course,” Kirn said.
Kirn said new state transportation grant funding opportunities in Senate Bill 1, which has transportation funding, was created to support projects such as the Highway 101 project.
“Our state legislators are working hard to assist SBCAG in obtaining this new state funding,” Kirn said.