Due to the economic downturn, the original projections for voter-passed Measure A are expected to be overly optimistic by $10 million in its first five years. As the measure is expected to raise $1 billion over 30 years, the potential shortfall is not a major one, but the immediate future calls for money to pay for the widening of Highway 101, a project identified by voters as the region’s highest priority. Add to that the trouble at the state level, and the dilemma could amount to $40 million. The funding problem won’t impact the Highway 101 widening project until 2015, when phase three-which includes the overpasses at Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass in Carpinteria-is set to take place. The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) is looking at alternate scenarios to keep on pace, largely funding that it receives from the federal level that could help offset the deficit.
While SBCAG’s plan is being worked out, members of the board (made up of the five county supervisors and a city council representative from each city within the county) appear to be warming up to the idea of ensuring the Highway 101 project remains the top priority, even at the expense of delaying some other projects expected to be funded by Measure A.
The current construction at Milpas Street is being paid for with a combination of Measure D and state funds and is supposed to be completed in 2012. Because two lanes in each direction must be kept open at all times, the work is slower than normal, said SBCAG spokesperson Gregg Hart. Phase two will see the widening of the stretch of Highway 101 from Ventura to Carpinteria. SBCAG has secured $150 million in transportation bonds for that project. Assuming the state sticks by its promise to fund the project, the work is slated to begin in 2011.