As Caltrans moves ahead with plans to widen a 10.9-mile strip of Highway 101 from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara by adding a carpool lane, two political forces are lining up in Montecito. One, led by public relations veteran J’Amy Brown, endorses one of the five alternative exit-ramp configurations proposed by Caltrans. The other, led by the Montecito Association, is trying to run an end-around on Caltrans and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments by proposing a plan of its own, which it will reveal at an upcoming meeting.
Although it’s unlikely that the Montecito Association can usurp the Caltrans project, which has been planned for years and has undergone environmental review, it is doing its darnedest to pull political strings. President Dick Nordlund confirmed that he has been in touch with the governor’s office and that next week the association will host Rachel Falsetti, the interim director of Caltrans District 5, which includes S.B. County.
The Montecito Association, founded to preserve the area’s “semi-rural residential character,” hopes to keep intact the bridges over Cabrillo Boulevard, believes the lane addition can be completed faster and cheaper than Caltrans is proposing, and objects to the destruction of the fast-lane exit ramps at Cabrillo/Hot Springs. (Caltrans plans on destroying all fast-lane exits.) Lastly, the group does not wish the addition to be a carpool lane, which it thinks will actually slow down traffic.
A coalition of neighbors, including Brown, who live on or near Hermosillo Road are campaigning for an option — “F Modified” — that would add entrance and exit ramps at Cabrillo Boulevard to both the north- and southbound sides of the 101, as well as preserve the off-ramp at Hermosillo in the northbound direction. According to a court reporter hired to transcribe feedback from members of the public at a Tuesday-night forum at the Montecito Country Club, F Modified had the most support. Caltrans is accepting public comment until May 25.