Retired highway builder Ron Pulice stands on the San Ysidro Overpass above Highway 101.

Paul Wellman

Retired highway builder Ron Pulice stands on the San Ysidro Overpass above Highway 101.

Montecitans Pull Rank on Caltrans

MA Challenges Carpool Plan, Sends Letter to Governor

Thursday, February 21, 2013
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“This is not a Montecito problem,” said David Kent, president of the Montecito Association (MA), about the project to add a Highway 101 carpool lane between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. From agribusinesses in the north, whose shipping lanes would be impeded, to tourist destinations along the coast, whose potential customers would be frustrated away, the reverberations of a poorly executed plan would be felt throughout the county, he maintained. What separates Montecito, however, is that its residents have the time, resources, and connections to wage a war against the bureaucratic behemoth Caltrans.

In a mounting effort to do just that, Kent and Richard Nordlund, the past Montecito Association president, signed a Valentine’s Day–dated letter addressed to Governor Jerry Brown asking him to consider design alternatives to the five South Coast 101 HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) Project options Caltrans introduced in its draft environmental impact review (EIR) this past summer. The MA is lobbying to keep the four fast-lane exit ramps at the Cabrillo and Sheffield exchanges and to begin the carpool-only portion of the third lane at Ortega Hill in Summerland, three miles east of the current proposal.

Caltrans would like to remove all of the fast-lane exits. As a general rule, the agency no longer builds them, citing safety concerns. But Kent and Nordlund wrote in their letter, “These left-hand ramps have fewer accidents per million vehicle miles traveled than most of the comparable right-ramps located in the adjacent Santa Barbara area.” They base their claim on California Highway Patrol data and argue that the exits are used by locals, for the most part. Kent estimates that the MA has spent about $50,000 on the campaign so far, hiring consultants such as former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters. When all is said and done, he expects to have shelled out twice that amount.

One of his most enthusiastic enlistees is Ron Pulice, scion of Pulice Construction, a Phoenix-based highway engineering and contracting firm that sold to a Spanish company in 2009 for $114 million. A resident of Montecito whose name may conjure generous contributions to area institutions, Pulice said he has overseen more than 100 operations the size of the lane-widening project. He figures that the project can be completed in two years ​— ​as opposed to the four years he predicted Caltrans would take — ​and at a $50-million savings, not to mention fewer costs to Montecito’s business, beauty, and ecology.

Pulice also believes that Caltrans is banking on the ignorance of South Coasters to push through its project. A self-described business-friendly Democrat, Pulice asked rhetorically, “If we knew before we invaded Iraq that there were no WMDs, would we still have invaded?” but then answered his question by saying he hoped not. So he is lobbying businesses and organizations, proselytizing for the MA alternative.

Rather than cast Caltrans as malevolent Mongols trying to sack the South Coast’s civilized beach cities, the MA has framed the state agency as a factory mass-producing “cookie-cutter” highways. “You have to realize that Caltrans is this very large bureaucracy,” said Kent. “They gave [the South Coast 101 HOV Project] to their engineers that designed a freeway that wouldn’t look any different if it had been put in the middle of L.A., or San Diego, or San Jose.”

Caltrans project manager Scott Eades said that he and his colleagues worked with the community prior to the release of their EIR and that they have made design exceptions. They even added two new exchange configurations, but both still abolish the left-lane ramps. He conceded that Caltrans does not see “eye to eye” with the MA on “viable long-term options,” but ​— ​at the direction of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments ​— ​Caltrans is assessing the MA proposal. “We are essentially taking their concept and designing it to the same level we did with the other proposals,” he said. Caltrans wants to wait for the completion of that process before commenting on any conclusions.

The one element of the MA alternative that has received some blowback is a southbound onramp at Los Patos Way, although Pulice said that the ramp is not vital. Businesses there are afraid that they’d be crippled by snarled traffic. The City of Santa Barbara is not too thrilled with that idea either. On the other hand, transportation planner Rob Dayton said the city has always been in favor of keeping the fast-lane ramps. Santa Barbara would also want to add a lane and bike path on Cabrillo Boulevard underneath the Union Pacific railroad to accommodate a new southbound ramp, hopefully as part of the lane-widening project.


After this article was published Thursday morning, Rob Dayton, the City of Santa Barbara’s Principal Transportation Planner, sent this email to city councilmembers and others:

Be advised that I was miss-quoted in the Independent today— “Rob Dayton says the city has always been in favor of keeping the fast-lane ramps.” This is incorrect. The City of Santa Barbara Planning Commission is on record supporting a traditional-style diamond interchange at Cabrillo. The left-side ramps are not permitted by Caltrans for safety reasons.

I was merely acknowledging the Montecito Association and other concerned community member’s ‘idea’ to leave the ramps to save money and protect the aesthetic quality of the area – good reasons. The 101 Project Team, which includes Caltrans, had the same idea with the recently completed widening project between Milpas and Cabrillo interchanges. That project extended three lanes southbound over Cabrillo Boulevard and retained the left-side southbound off-ramp. The 101 HOV project team looked at doing the same. This is no longer possible because Caltrans can no longer support the left-side ramps.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This fellow , Pulice, has the highway building experience to know a bureaucratic blunder when he sees it. Caltrans needs to come out of their cocoon of conformity and listen to this group.

geeber (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 4:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ron Pulice is a very smart guy who is trying to us all a public service by taking on Caltrans. He has the experience in building highways that serve the users. Please Caltrans, listen to someone who has the locals best interests in mind.

greghuglin (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 7:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

These wealthy NIMBY's from Montecito are so selfish and myopic that they do not care about the working people who have to travel the 101 everyday to get to work and back. But I guess with all the time and money on their hands they will always find something to be upset about.

It seems that they are taking a leave out of the their fellow bretheren from Beverly Hills and their opposition to the tunnel under BH High School for the subway. No care for working people - just worried about their "latte" being messed up because the subway runs under their favourite Starbucks.

historypete (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 9:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Pulice seems like a nice guy, but there is absolutely no way this can be built in two years. Expanding existing freeways is very complicated, as you must keep the freeway open during construction; can't build during morning of evening rush hour, moving utilities is expensive, bridges must be rebuilt, water flow must be managed to protect the ocean, etc.

Pulice knows this, so I can't figure out how he came up with two years. Would love to see his construction schedule.

Tigershark (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 12:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Caltrans builds and maintains thousands of miles of freeways throughout California. The Montecito Association wants to portray them as ignorant. Caltrans is the expert in building roads. They have the great track record and their work is focused on safety.

All delays by the Montecito Association are bad for tourism, bad for SB business, and bad for the drivers who are traveling up the coast.

e_male (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 12:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Building another lane will do absolutely no good. When it is finally built the 101 will just fill up with more cars and be as crowded as before. Get a grip.

nelsonjazz (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 12:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you want to do things shoddily, leave hazards and potential higher future maintenance costs then yes, by all means finish the freeway project in a weekend.
Public entities have less reason to cut safety corners than private firms because they are nonprofit.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 2:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What makes this highway widening proposal better than most is the HOV lane, which will reward those who do something to solve the congestion problem by carpooling or taking the bus. The HOV lane won't be nearly as effective if it stops before Montecito, which is one of the most congested areas. The whole project wouldn't have even been approved by SBCAG and by the voters (who approved the Measure A funding) if it didn't include the (entire) HOV lanes. Why are the left-hand exits so important to the MA that they want to make the new road less beneficial for everyone else?

mabcal (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 3:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Q: Why are the left-hand exits so important to the MA that they want to make the new road less beneficial for everyone else?

A: They're afraid peasants will be able to more easily exit and befoul their sacred terrain?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 3:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Not to be nitpicky, but to be nitpicky.....the title of this should really be Montecito Association. It makes it seem like (yet again) everyone who lives in Montecito is somehow on the same page of the agenda, here. Not the case.

Native1 (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 4:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Caltrans Plan has problems. HOV or commuter lanes have not worked in California. To few cars use them while others cars in the single-use lanes sit in traffic polluting the air. The State has recognized this and is now letting hybrid single-use cars use them.

So if you have the money to buy an expensive hybrid or Tesla Roadster, you get to use the commuter lane. Class system transportation in all it's glory.

Many HOV lanes have been turned into toll lanes. Another sign of the failure of HOV lanes.

Turns out letting ALL the PEOPLE use ALL the LANES actually works the best.

If Santa Barbara actually put some growth limits on itself and stopped the housing mandates that increase the population and vehicle population in the area, we wouldn't have so many cars to deal with.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 5 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People don't seem to realize that all those commuters on the 101 (well a majority of them) work in Santa Barbar but are forced to live elsewhere due to the abundance of empty second homes, rent gouging ect. If you polled them I bet another good majority would say if given the choice, they'd prefer to walk to work over being stuck in traffic, paying for gas etc.
So if these people are good enough to fight your fires, arrest your bad guys, serve your food, teach your child etc etc etc; then surely they are good enough to live in the community they work in/serve.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 21, 2013 at 5:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Georgy said, "HOV or commuter lanes have not worked in California. To few cars use them while others cars in the single-use lanes sit in traffic polluting the air. The State has recognized this and is now letting hybrid single-use cars use them. So if you have the money to buy an expensive hybrid or Tesla Roadster, you get to use the commuter lane. Class system transportation in all it's glory."

I think you're logic is a bit reversed there. HOV lanes reward carpoolers; the congestion is because most people who can afford their own car insist on driving their own car. The irony of "class-based transportation" is that people pay more to sit in traffic.

Back to the primary article, what exactly is the basis of the MA's objection / suggestion of alternate plans? Is it really simply based on aesthetic merit alone? That's what I am taking from this....

Sothep (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2013 at 12:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Who will rule when the ocean water rises and this part of Montecito is underwater?

dullfin (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2013 at 4:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Sothep I wish they did work. If HOV lanes improved air quality, I'd be in support of them. It would be nice if we all carpooled, but for whatever reason, we don't. That's reality. And the air we both breathe is worse because of these HOV lanes.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2013 at 7:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have commuted for years from Carpinteria, so I would like to speak to this.

Here is the deal. A third lane is going to be added to the freeway no matter what and it will cause disruption while it is being built. Period.

The Caltrans design is projected to take nearly 5 YEARS. That’s assuming no delays.

The CCAP Plan (community coalition Alternative Plan) that Pullice is behind would take 2 YEARS. Even if Pullice – who has spent his life building freeways – is off on his schedule, you know it will still take less time than Caltrans. So what is the down side to that? For us “little guys” who commute, this is huge.

I do not live in Montecito, but attended the forum they had on this, and thought everything they said just makes common sense. The Caltrans design does not address current safety concerns where they have jammed in the HOV lane.. Also driving in from Carpinteria, I really look forward to the views as I approach Montecito, especially Fernald Point area. Caltrans will pretty much obliterate that area with 15 foot wall of concrete. It does not matter where you live, who in the world would find that preferable?

I totally agree that we should just leave the left ramps – it’s just us locals who use them and they are not a problem for us. In this manner the third lane can be added on the outside which is what makes this alternative project easier, faster, safer, and less expensive.

evolution (anonymous profile)
February 22, 2013 at 6:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I remember reading a copy of the Montecito Journal last summer (I was bored while waiting for new car tires) and it seemed like a large clique of Montecitans were rallying around one of the CalTrans options.

Did they all change their minds when a more popular figurehead appeared? Or is this a competing group?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
February 23, 2013 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for the added perspective Geeber.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
February 23, 2013 at 3:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've got a story for those who so willingly accept Caltrans plans .
My ancestors rolled into Santa Barbara County on horse drawn carriages driven over all dirt roadways. We have seen it all over the years.
In about 1969 , Caltrans and the Army Corps of Engineers decided to wipe out one of our most treasured surfbreaks by piling thousands of tons of boulders on top of the spot named Stanley's. This needless waste of one of our finest beaches was done to create on off ramp . An offramp that had design alternatives which could have saved the surf spot . Nobody stood up.
Now we have a group willing to do battle with Caltrans and their autocratic planning and we should appreciate the effort they are making to avoid another Caltrans planning blunder.
For those interested in the story of Caltrans wiping out Stanley's, search the Yvonne Chouinard narrated you tube vid titled - " Stanley's , a lost treasure".

geeber (anonymous profile)
February 24, 2013 at 11:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

good call geeber. Just think if the Miramar starts or is under construction while all this is going on. $@%#$%@#$!!! What a mess!!!

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2013 at 11:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The people in Montecito have delayed widening long enough. Move on already.

RealityCheck22 (anonymous profile)
February 25, 2013 at 7:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry reality check , but there are many of us who are not Montecito residents who disagree with the despotic planning done by Caltrans.
Yes , move on , but with the right plan.

geeber (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 4:33 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Regardless of what Caltrans has done in the past, I think the current plans should (and can) be judged on their own merits.

I haven't done any research on success/failure of HOV lanes, but I think it's not a bad idea to open them up to hybrids. The implication that hybrids are all expensive or elitist is off the mark. Many new hybrid base models are selling in the low $20K's ... Honda Insight, Ford Fusion are examples. And there are quite a few of them on the road now, which means there can be an impact on traffic flow.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
February 26, 2013 at 9:11 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We need the third lane. and once it is built then we can have a citizen uprising to decide whether we need it exclusively for an HOV lane (for three miles or whatever? - - hardly worth it). That's not the issue.

The real complaint is: should we just lie down and allow Caltrans to bulldoze us over with LA-style mega-construction overbuild that will tie things up 5 years for us commuters? These guys in the coalition have a simpler solution. it's quicker. it's easier.
I'm all for it.

evolution (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 4:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just in - Caltrans makes another expensive planning blunder. Part of the newly paved freeway in the Bailard area of Carpinteria will have to be removed because of an elevation miscalculation by Caltrans planners. According to sources , they missed their calcs on the height and will have to lower the freeway by a foot to achieve height at Bailard overpass. You guys want to trust Caltrans to do the right thing in Montecito? Not me.

geeber (anonymous profile)
February 27, 2013 at 6:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I smell a self-serving agenda so decided to look into this more ...

It turns out there have been numerous public comment sessions held on the design of the freeway modifications already, and the lengthy comment period for design selection has ended (although there are many reviews still ahead).

In fact, during the concept reviews held last year, local residents, including Montecitans and Santa Barbarans, were allowed to rework Caltrans' original three design options. The result of this community input was the creation of two more design options which Caltrans allowed to be added to the official slate ... now a total of 5 design options.

Those 5 design options were reviewed and one of them was unanimously approved by the City Planning Commisson after public comment.

Judging from the June 21, 2012 issue of the Montecito Journal, many locals were ecstatic that their design option was selected. You can read all the praise they heaped on the selection process and the resulting freeway design here:

For the few who want to reopen the design process, where were you when you had your chance last year?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
May 17, 2013 at 12:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To Eastbeach: They all agreed to to it because they thought CalTrans was on the level with them. They weren't.

People who had experience building highways and major technical projects began to compare notes on this and saw that things were not adding up as Caltrans described.

They asked Caltrans for the as-built plans and realized it was not as described by Caltrans: it was going to have long ENORMOUS impacts.

This is what spawned the Alternative plan.

Geeber is right-on. Caltrans is repeatedly on record as a monolithic bureaucratic agency which does not have to answer to anyone. do not lay down and let Caltrans pave us over to smithereens, we can do better in a smarter fashion.

evolution (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

CORRECTION: People who have experience PROFITTING from, NOT designing or even building but only FINANCING came up with the plan. A buncha been counters who now want to play arts and sciences. Example, freeway mogul Ron Pulice who's alleged wisdom is consistently trotted out, graduated in '71 with a BA in ECONOMICS. Not ENGINEERING or science or design.
A crack cocaine binge "spawned the alternate plan", or did they really think Vons would be happy to host an offramp on aisle 4?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I bet if Pulice's company had the contract he'd be down to widen that stretch to 5 lanes each way and add more ramps.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
May 25, 2013 at 6:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well back in the 1990's we went up against CAL -TRANS in Carmel, and after all was said and done they came around to our way of thinking. They are willing to change the Freeway designs when it is in the publics best interest. Today then public has spoken! We want a design that makes the 101 safe and efficient. We want a highway that will be most effective to move the cars and trucks through Santa Barbara without the Sunday summertime gridlock. The "Funnel" would work to move the maximum amount of traffic through this bottleneck. The Funnel is a tunnel that would be dug under the 101 and add three more lanes in the direction that is in the greatest need...
South from noon till midnight and North the rest of the time. The trucks and trailers as well as local traffic would use the upper road when it is completed. Stay classy S.B.

GEO (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 11:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

let's move on, Pulice means well but he is wrong, can't be done in 2 years. Get rid of left-side ramps! Enough palaver.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 9, 2013 at 1:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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