Michael Self of Santa Barbara Safe Streets attracted about 70 transportation partisans from both sides of the “traffic calming” debate to a public forum on February 9. Self has emerged as Santa Barbara’s most tireless critic of roundabouts and other City Hall efforts to “tame” the automobile. Libertarian Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute described “the dark side” of Portland’s acclaimed alternative transit system and offered high praise for Houston, often regarded by urban policymakers as an icon of runaway growth. Santa Barbara City Councilmember Das Williams stressed that the rival camps must work together to secure any congestion relief grants.
The Santa Barbara City Council gave the thumbs-up to a $50 million package of freeway and street improvements designed to relieve congestion between Milpas Street and Hot Springs Road. Among those improvements will be a new roundabout between the bird refuge and Old Coast Highway, a new southbound lane, two northbound auxiliary lanes to facilitate merging onto the freeway, and a new underpass at Cacique Street connecting residents of the lower Eastside to the waterfront. Construction is projected to begin in March 2008 and last for four years, during which time freeway congestion will be exacerbated and safety lanes will be occupied by construction equipment and crews.
Now that he’s head of the Assembly Transportation Committee, Santa Barbara’s State Assemblymember Pedro Nava is beating the bushes to secure $150 million to help alleviate the traffic bottleneck that’s made life a living hell for anyone trying to get to or from Carpinteria during rush hour. Specifically, Nava hopes to secure a chunk of funding from the multibillion-dollar Proposition 1B bond measure just passed to address freeway problems that afflict the stretch from Mussel Shoals in Ventura County to Casitas Pass in Carpinteria. While Nava has yet to secure the money, it’s expected he will.
The Ortega Hill Project, paid for with $5 million of Measure D funds, will officially open with a February 21 ceremony at 10 a.m. The project consists of an auxiliary freeway lane that gives drivers entering northbound 101 from the Evans Avenue onramp in Summerland more time and distance to gain speed before merging with traffic. A new bike path next to the project now connects Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, giving cyclists an alternative to the freeway shoulder and hilly side streets.