<b>ROUNDABOUT:</b>  Mayor Helene Schneider says keeping Montecito’s left-lane exit ramps is back “on the table” as a result of her meeting with Caltrans execs.

Paul Wellman (file)

ROUNDABOUT: Mayor Helene Schneider says keeping Montecito’s left-lane exit ramps is back “on the table” as a result of her meeting with Caltrans execs.

Mayor Plays Power Politics

Schneider Goes Toe-to-Toe with Caltrans Over Freeway-Widening

Thursday, August 15, 2013
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Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider reported that Caltrans chief Malcolm Dougherty was recently persuaded to reopen the possibility of retaining the left-lane exit ramps by the Hot Springs Road and Cabrillo Boulevard exchanges along Highway 101, despite Dougherty’s unequivocally vehement and repeated statements to the contrary at a public meeting in Santa Barbara this May.

At that meeting, Dougherty came down from Sacramento specifically to hammer home the point that he would never approve the retention of the left-lane off-ramps as part of the freeway-widening project because he said they’re inherently unsafe. But on August 7, Schneider sent an email to her fellow boardmembers with the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) quoting Dougherty as telling her at a meeting held in Sacramento in late July that he would agree “to put everything on the table.” She added in her email, “I interpret this statement to mean the retention of the left-hand ramps is ‘on the table.’”

On July 27, Schneider flew to Sacramento to attend a meeting arranged by Common Sense 101 activists Jack Overall and Ron Pulice with Dougherty, recently appointed Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly, and Jerry Brown staff representative Jacob Appelsmith. Common Sense 101 is a group of politically well-connected Montecito residents who’ve spent the past two years lobbying Caltrans, SBCAG, and anyone who will listen that the freeway-widening project can be built faster, cheaper, and just as safely by keeping the left-lane off-ramps and have adamantly opposed constructing right-lane ramps as favored by Caltrans. Thus far, however, they have been unable to convince either Caltrans or SBCAG staff. Schneider’s campaign manager, Jeremy Lindaman, also does political consulting work for Common Sense 101.

Schneider, now running for reelection as mayor, described the meeting as “intense,” stating that Dougherty came out arguing strongly against the left-lane off-ramps, pointing out that the collision rates at the Hot Springs-Cabrillo exchanges are higher than the statewide average. Schneider said she countered that the traffic collision data on which Dougherty relied needed more precise evaluation. Some of the higher numbers, she said, could be attributed to the freeway construction taking place. And further review, she said, was needed to determine how many of the collisions were caused by the left-lane exits and how many by congestion in general. She added that Dougherty and other Caltrans executives had twice approved the retention of the left-lane ramps in the last 10 years as part of the improvements done on Highway 101 already.

Perhaps more troubling to the state transportation chiefs, Schneider revealed that new studies have demonstrated that traffic congestion by the Montecito exits will get much worse under the freeway-widening plans embraced by Caltrans, not better. She said these studies show the level of service at these intersections will plunge from what traffic engineers describe as levels A/B down to D/E. In light of this new information, Schneider said she put the statewide transportation chiefs on notice that she didn’t see how the City of Santa Barbara could issue Caltrans the Coastal Development Permit needed to build the freeway-widening project.

While Schneider and City Hall traffic engineers have expressed skepticism over Caltrans’s insistence on right-lane ramps in the past, they have been most passionately outspoken that the proposed freeway-widening project needed to include plans to widen the Union Pacific railroad bridge over Cabrillo Boulevard. Without such a bridge, they have argued, traffic attempting to get onto the freeway from Cabrillo Boulevard will be mired in endless gridlock. Such improvements had been promised before, Schneieder has said, but never delivered. When she pressed Dougherty at the meeting in Sacramento, she said, he did not budge.

When pressed if that meant left-lane ramps were now “on the table” as Schneider had recalled, Lacy stated, “I can only tell you what I’ve already told you.”

Neither Dougherty nor his spokesperson were available to comment on Schneider’s version of events. Gareth Lacy, spokesperson for Brian Kelly and the California Transportation Agency, said his agency is committed to working with local officials to ensure maximum safety and mobility. To that end, he said, Dougherty and Kelly had made a commitment to get together at an unspecified future date with Schneider and other local representatives to discuss in greater detail the accident collision data. When pressed if that meant left-lane ramps were now “on the table” as Schneider had recalled, Lacy stated, “I can only tell you what I’ve already told you.”

Schneider said she sent a memo to Governor Brown’s representative at the meeting, dated August 7, memorializing her recollection of what had transpired. This recollection, she said, included not just a further review of the safety data but the left-lane exits, as well. He replied, “The letter you attached does a good job summarizing the issues,” adding, “There is a positive resolution somewhere, we just have to push to find it.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

A positive result will be the retention of the left exit lanes, especially the Cabrillo Blvd one. Thank you, Mayor Schneider, for pushing to get the best possible freeway development possible. It will be to wveryone's benefit.

at_large (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 12:21 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I support CalTrans on this one 100% - this exit is inherently dangerous and should have been eliminated long ago. If the residents of Montecito had planted new replacement trees back when they first protested the loss of those in the way of this project, there would be nothing standing in way at this time to keep the rural aspects of this section of highway. They snoozed and it is now time for them to lose. Five years from now some new trees will cover all crimes left from this necessary project.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Studies I don't know but Common sense of the Road tells me that if you put a Vehicle exceeding the speed limit in the Fast lane (any lane not on the far right), and tell them to exit the freeway on the left, you endanger all on-coming traffic when they fail to reduce their speed to the safe off ramp speed and over-shoot the intersection. The speed limit may read 55 or 60 mph but drivers inherently exceed the speed limit by 20 mph everyday, thus making them a speeding rocket, couple that with exiting the freeway on their left towards other speeding rockets coming the other way; the Body bag Industries will have a field day by increasing their product out put for more bags to stuff the remains of all those dead bodies as a result of head-on collisions from left lane exits! Then too, if you build an overpass and exit those left laner's by sending them down hill (increasing their forward momentum) in to the intersections, again when they over shoot their stopping power with that of another vehicle's side panel, thus again killing both parties and their passengers. The reason for Right hand off ramps is to have the vehicles in the "slower" lane, exit at slower speeds, taking the vehicles away from the Rocket Race and thus allowing for safe entering on to the surface streets. That's my observation of the whole exit lane idea.

dou4now (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 9:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I support the Mayor 100% in keeping the left hand ramps because CalTrans seems to screw everything up. Go look at the Oakland Bay Bridge or the 405 widening. Years behind schedule and billions over budget.

local (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 9:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You mean all these years we've been supporting the body bag industry with the carnage from our left lane on-ramps and off-ramps?

Have you ever thought of even providing evidence of one death caused by these, or is it much easier to run off at the mouth without any use of logic or facts behind it?

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey it's election season and Ms. Schneider has to pander to her fat wallet obsrtuctionist friends in Montecito. This freeway project has been talked and studied to death. Finally Caltrans has a good plan and a bunch of retired busy bodies are wasting time and money (much of it the paxpayer's) trying to get their half baked plans approved. Read "Common Sense 101 "'s plan and you will see how out of touch these geezers really are. There is no way to have an offramp on the left from a HOV lane it will cause confusion and many accidents. Their plan is really a do noting approach that will make congestion worse. That is not an issue to Overall and Co. because their daily commute is from their plush homes all the way down to the Valley Club for a round and lunch.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 10:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It seems that Schneider has been offered some campaign cash in exchange for left lane exit support.

Every time I drive through the Mont I feel like I'm putting my life on the line because of these stupid ramps. I'm with CalTrans.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 10:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Have you ever seen a dump truck or other large slower moving vehicle like a semi try to move over from the slow lanes to exit at Hot Springs or Cabrillo? I have as I am a truck driver who passes these left lane exits daily. Other drivers are forced to slow dramatically to allow this. Non locals who are not aware of the ramps get a real surprise when that big ass dump truck suddenly jumps in front of them to exit.

mcblaze (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 6:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

End the left-lanes stupidity. Even Cal Trans gets it right occasionally. The massive flex of the mayor is here suborned by the prospect of campaign cash from Montecito fat cats: they don't even live in the City of SB!! C'mon, Helene, and bring back your four points from last year, we need leadership, not waffling.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 7:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

For years we on the south coast have been told "10 HOV/ widening is THE priority" and have thus had most local transportation funds diverted to that project- it is a large part of why Measure A passed. Why would any responsible south coast elected official want to derail that project, eliminate the hov lane and thereby undermine the essence and integrity of the project?
I would rather rely upon the legal, environmental review process, and not hired guns or political hacks who have personal agendas. Montecito elites killed the widening twenty years ago. If that happens again, shame on us and those who lead us down this rabbit hole

whosecityisthis2012 (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are only a handful of votes for Helene in Montecito CVR area. She does not need to win with them this time. But she might need them for her next turn.

Or, will she go gently into that good political night when her next and last term as mayor is over? I don't think so because she is now so well-seasoned, bright, young and capable. I would rather she Helene than Lois, Hannah-Beth or Das ....combined.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 9:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

but plenty of dough for her campaign chest, foo. I would rather Helene than Das, but Lois and Hanna-Beth rock.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 9:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Schneider’s campaign manager, Jeremy Lindaman, also does political consulting work for Common Sense 101."

I think Schneider's been a good Mayor, but my corporate ethics training tells me even the appearance of a conflict of interest should be avoided.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 11:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No vested interest or horse in the race , just 40 plus years of problem free use of those left lane ramps to support the statistics - those ramps in question have lower accident rates than the state average for right lane ramps.
Loudmouths posting here notwithstanding , Caltrans planning is abysmal and deserves amending . This alternative plan saves time and money and reduces congestion on surface streets .
You fools should study the plan , drive the routes with open minds and get over your weird obsession with the who . Focus on the what , not the who.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 15, 2013 at 11:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

geeber, focusing on the what rather than the who would be refreshing, but apparently impossible for some posters.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The reason that those left hand off ramps have fourty plus years of "problem free" use is that they were not connected to an HOV lane. In addition since they are were congestion is the rule most of the time drivers are going much slower than they should be. Hey the stop lights worked great for decades. Better yet, when horses and mules were the mode of transportation, the accident rate was almost nil. "Common Sense 101" has done nothing but cost the taxpayers money and time with their foolish plans. I have read all of the proposals both from Caltrans and from C.S.101. The only one that makes any sense is F modified, the plan favored by the Santa Barbara City planners. If you go to the C.S.101 website they do not have a real plan for all to see. What they have proposed in the past is laughable. At one time they were pushing to rebuild and enlarge the roundabout at Hot Springs which would have required land from the Montecito Country Club and the shopping center. They pushed that pipe dream even though Caltrans made clear that they are not going to buy more right of way and the land owners (Ty Group and others) were not selling. Even though the City staff and the planning commision have rejected C.S.101's half baked ideas, Schneider is now on the side of obstruction. Why? Follow the money. The lucky ones of Montecito have to realize that the freeway that runs through their town is U.S.101. It was paid for by the citizens of all of the fifty states and is maintained by the people of all of California. It is there to promote good transportation for everyone that uses it. If C.S.101 gets to mould it to their selfish goals, Federal and State money to help pay for the project will be in jeopardy.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 9:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you Mayor Schneider-
Caltrans plans are always what is best for Caltrans, much to the detriment
of the taxpayers who live there. If you allow them to, they will move into Montecito and stay for decades, like they have done in Santa Barbara.
They play the "safety card", but it's really a cover up to maximize costs of labor time and materials. Any independent audit of their projects will expose this.

Newocean (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well this latest C.S. 101 objection to years of careful planning has already cost the taxpayers $170,000 plus 1,600 of hours of staff time and guess what? The conclusion is the obvious one, that the C.S.101 "plan" does not work. The foolish stance of the pandering Schneider is going to cost even more. Hey if we wait long enough the cost of contruction will rise along with the cost of capital. Way to go former captains of industry! You are showing how best to waste public money on your ego induced pipe dreams.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 12:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

on the "what" -- 'been driving to and fro on these precise sections of 101 for 34 years: time after time some yahoo going slow moves into the left [fast] lane so s/he can get off at Hot Springs or Sheffield. This is the what, John.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Eastbeach: Yep, a campaign manager who works for both Schneider and Common Sense 101 could be a FPPC conflict.

dou4now's statement "drivers inherently exceed the speed limit by 20 mph everyday" is true, and it applies to all lanes. Speed would only be relevant to the discussion if the speed of vehicles using both right lane and left lane exits was considered, in addition to determining whether the speed of vehicles using either or both types was related to accidents. LA and Orange County drivers have an average speed at least 10-15 mph faster than in SB, my estimate, and should have a higher offramp accident rate if exit speed is important.

I think an earlier heads-up for the left exit is needed - signs posted on both the left and right sides of the freeway, posted around 1/4 mile before the current one.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 1:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So Doc & Herschel , tell us what happens to all the traffic that now uses these left lane offs once those ramps are closed ? No soft peddling please.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 5:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The plan called F modified has the North bound traffic get off at the new Hot Springs offramp that enters the current roundabout and continues to Cabrillo Blvd. Geeber do what well informed citizens do. Read the proposals. Did you know that the C.S. 101 brain trust wants to put a southbound 101 on ramp at Los Patos way? Yes that Los Patos way where big trucks get stuck under the railroad bridge. Part of their fairy tale plan call for somehow making that bridge suitable for an on and off ramp. Or perhaps they have dropped that plan. It is hard to tell from their fact free website what the current "common sense" plan is. Please do some homework and get back to us.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 5:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

See Herschel , its like this - I know damn well the proposed ramp changes. You seem semi intelligent. The question I posed was - what happens to that traffic once those offs are closed? The destinations don't change . What happens to that traffic ?

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 6:33 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let me break it down for you nice and easy for you. They will build a new off ramp on the correct, right side of the freeway. All those cars would enter the roundabout then they could go right onto CVR, or go a little further and go up Hot springs, or go a little further and go down Old Coast highway, or go a little further and go down to Cabrillo blvd.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 7:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

For the southbound traffic. The Los Patos off ramp is closed. A new off ramp is constructed on the correct, right side of the freeway. If someone wants to go to Cabrillo Blvd, they go right. If they want to go to Hot springs / CVR they go left. Was that simple enough?

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 16, 2013 at 7:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry , should have realized this issue was over your head.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 12:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Herschel_Greenspan's last comment is correct.

There are nice aerial views of the existing Hotsprings interchange and the F-Modified plan here:

Interestingly, from the perspective of a southbound driver headed for the roundabout, nothing changes except for the fact their offramp is in the traditional right-lane ... they get off, hang a left @Cabrillo, then go under the freeway and up to the roundabout.

Easy peasy.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 1:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My guess is Schneider is gambling to get a wider RR bridge by being obstinate on the left-hand ramps. I think she realizes this may be the best way to get some leverage to convince Union Pacific (?) to widen the RR bridge.

The problem with that gamble is, if she loses, we could get stuck with a narrow RR bridge *AND* a crappy interchange with left-hand ramps.

I'll take one bird in the hand please.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 1:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dr. Dan , for every slow yahoo in the fast lane using the left off , I raise you two over caffeinated speed demon , blinker challenged , three lanes in one wild swerve , fast lane to right hand off morons. You know I'm right.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 2:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

my empirical experience demonstrates you are wrong, geeber. Sure, those LA-caffeinated-racer-nots have their day and do their Juan Fangio stuff, but that's off topic: the left-hand offramps are a hazard, their day is done, and I am really offended (with HG) that the Montecito fat-cats caused our County to spend time with them and their self-serving plan costing "the taxpayers $170,000 plus 1,600 of hours of staff time". I don't see this happening elsewhere. Let's see if the 1% can move the freeway widening...Helene is bending in the wind again.
BTW, I'm for eliminating the freeway and forcing all of us onto mass transit, motorbikes, and bikes, and walking.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This left-hand thread has become sinister.

billclausen (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Near misses because of this aberrational left hand ramp never get recorded. It does not have a 40 year hazard-free record. Get it fixed while you can.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 3:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry guys , but accident statistics just don't back up your claims about those left lane offs.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 3:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The people that want these left hand on/off ramps changes quote their frightful experiences, but the statistics don't back up the need for this. With everything being equal, I'd prefer right hand on/off ramps, but how much is it going to cost to change it? No one is dying because of these, despite the attempt by some to spin otherwise. Save the money for things that will make a difference.

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 4:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I made an error in my description. Under plan F modified the northbound off ramp would have a traffic signal
All those cars going to Cabrillo would go left
All those cars going to Hot springs CVR and OCH would go right.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 9:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

During the public comment period, Caltrans received 150 letters that indicated a preference for one of the proposed interchange plans. 144 gave a preference for F modified. I was one of those in the majority. I would like my mayor to tell me why she now supports a group of well healed individuals who are bent on forcing their minority ideas on the 101 improvements. I do not have Jack Overall's money, but I do have a vote in the next mayoral election.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
August 17, 2013 at 9:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Traffic statistics - after this project is complete, freeway speeds will increase and those left hand ramps are going to be more dangerous.

Cost - as Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves said during the SBCAG meeting with the head of Caltrans, if the left hand ramps stay, the next accident that happens because of those ramps will result in a lawsuit that will make those purported savings disappear.

This project is supposed to take us to 2040. Imagine how bad traffic is going to be then. If we're going to do this project, let's do it right (pun intended).

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 9:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So who gets sued and loses after Cal Trans deliberately chooses to go with a more hazardous plan option when they first decided on the less hazardous option?

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 9:36 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And what's to stop people from suing if they change it and someone gets killed from the right side on/off ramp?

Botany (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 11:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

now we're down to anyone can sue anyone for anything in this "increasingly litigious society" aka the culture of complaint (R. Hughes)...
I declare a majority here of posters want to go with the CalTrans plan of eliminating left-side offramps, esp. because they're more dangerous when increasing speeds ensure after the construction (thanks EB).
Yes, it's secondary that a blah blah group of well-heeled Montecitans -CS101- have lobbied like crazy to avert the loss of their beloved anachronisms, but at the same time it's a vivid e.g. of how power works in this country: follow the money, as Clinton(Bill) famously intoned.
oh yes: in '16 how bout Hillary and Jerry Brown?!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 12:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Or ... Your "majority" can be labeled the " if it ain't broke , lets fix it " clan.

geeber (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 6:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

John_Adams hit it on the nose ... that's basically what Aceves said.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
August 19, 2013 at 9:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Highway 101 is a cornucopia of CALTRANS highway standards infractions. There's at least 75 miles of 'non freeway' through monterey county, consisting of left hand off ramps, on ramps, cross traffic intersections and open driveways, and CALTRANS is worried about 2 left hand exits in Montecito..

Get with it guys, you've got bigger problems just a few miles to the North.

Leave the left hand ramps, save the space and the money, reduce the speed limit and be done with it.

thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
August 21, 2013 at 7:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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