The Santa Barbara Association of Governments (SBCAG)-the board tasked with overseeing regional traffic issues-reaffirmed the Highway 101 widening project as its top priority, even if it means shuffling some money and other transportation projects around. As much of the funding for the project, anticipated to cost more than $400 million and being done in several different stages, is coming from federal and state sources, the emphasis has been on going after and securing those funds to keep the widening on schedule. Heading to the backburner are several projects that also require state and federal matching funds.
Other projects-nine or so in total and including the Highway 101 Santa Maria River Bridge and Carpinteria circulation improvements-don’t require matching funds, and will be completed using money from Measure A, the voter-approved measure that will bring $1 billion to the county for transportation use over the next 30 years. Since these won’t impair SBCAG’s ability to go after funds for the widening, these will be completed first.
Also a top priority is annual funding divided between the North and South County agencies that goes toward local street and transportation improvements-fixing potholes, for example-as well as money for carpools, bus transit, and the Safe Routes to School program. This funding is guaranteed each year, as the money will be taken off the top. Meanwhile, the board decided it will aggressively pursue state and federal funds for the Highway 101 project, which will expand the highway to three lanes from Milpas Street to Ventura County. SBCAG staff estimate that all projects planned for the 30-year life of Measure A will be completed in that time span.