WEATHER »
Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) meeting. Left to right: Jeremy Lindeman, Ron Pulice, and Jack Overall (Nov. 21, 2013)

Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) meeting. Left to right: Jeremy Lindeman, Ron Pulice, and Jack Overall (Nov. 21, 2013)


Freeway-Widening Food Fight Intensifies

The Slo-Mo Game of Chicken Is Building to Final Showdown


Monday, November 25, 2013
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Comments
Share Article

The political food fight that is the freeway-widening and carpool-lane project for Highway 101 got bigger and badder this week with new combatants entering the fray and the established players upping the ante. At issue — broadly put — are the $500 million plans to expand the freeway from Montecito to the Ventura County line, what’s included in that plan, and how long it takes for the proposed project to become actual construction.

Thursday morning, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments — SBCAG — heard from a wide array of conflicting stakeholders in the project’s outcome. Pushing for speedy resolution were representatives of various chambers of commerce who argue that the freeway project needs to be built post haste to alleviate the hellacious congestion-induced delays that Ventura County residents experience as they drive to and from their Santa Barbara and Goleta jobs. A speaker for the Carpinteria Chamber expressed concern with the existing left-hand off-ramps in Montecito — the focus of much of the debate — describing how several boardmembers had experienced near misses with drivers who were surprised that the ramps were on the left side of the road instead of the right.

While these ramps are hardly the only bone of contention, they have gotten the most attention. Common Sense 101, a group of well-heeled and politically connected Montecito residents have argued that left-hand ramps should be retained over Caltrans’s objections. Contrary to Caltrans’s assertions, they claim, the ramps are as safe or safer than 90 percent of the off-ramps throughout the South Coast and that the freeway widening would be completed much faster and $60 million cheaper if they are not replaced.

Supervisor Salud Carbajal took Caltrans to task — yet again — for failing to provide a detailed analysis of these claims yet. Unless Caltrans provided a case-by-case analysis of the collisions that have taken place at these off-ramps — and that analysis demonstrated a real safety issue — he warned that the SBCAG board might vote to challenge the environmental impact report on the freeway widening Caltrans is eager to certify. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider pressed Caltrans district director Tim Gubbins to pledge that he would not certify the environmental report until after SBCAG meets on December 19. Gubbins agreed to hold off until after that meeting.

If Common Sense 101 were to get its way — and the left-hand ramps were retained — then Caltrans could not install a carpool lane through Montecito as it has always planned to do. Some alternative transportation supporters showed up on behalf of the carpool lane, arguing that to truncate it at the most congested stretch of freeway would render the entire effort a huge waste of time and money. Without the carpool lane, these speakers said, they never would have supported the sales-tax measure to fund the freeway widening in the first place. (That sales-tax measure — Measure A — passed five years ago.) But other environmental activists associated with the Community Environmental Council showed up to express concern that the freeway-widening project would gobble up any transit monies that in the past had been used to fund much-needed bike lanes.

Lost in the din was a letter submitted by Santa Barbara City Administrator Jim Armstrong questioning why Caltrans and SBCAG had not answered why the freeway-widening project does not include provisions for expanding the railroad bridge by the Andrée Clark Bird Refuge. For the past two years, City Hall has been arguing that the freeway widening had to include improvements for this bridge or else Cabrillo Boulevard would become intolerably congested. In addition, City Hall has insisted that the project should include a roundabout where Coast Village Road feeds into the freeway.

These weedy details of the high-impact wonk-fest are scheduled to be hashed out at the SBCAG meeting on December 19, but no vote will be taken until the January meeting at the soonest.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

Slow down here....
SBCAG, Salud, Caltrans, and city hall are at work on this?
If i were Common Sense 101 I wouldn't be too worried about anything getting done!

touristunfriendly (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 11:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

just cancel the entire $500 million project, eliminate the 14 years of INCESSANT DELAYS, shut down Sheffield south on-ramp, and FORCE local employers like UCSB to coordinate work schedules and STAGGER WORK HOURS!
This would work, ya know? But there are no politicians around who can think of the good of the most, and Salud etc. need the swag from Montecito fatcats 101 for future political campaigns...unless Helene gets the swag. These two have never met a left-side on/offramp they didn't love.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's bring back the traffic signals on 101 too!

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 3:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I hated those four redlights, and my young son hated them too as we waited and waited.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 4:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I like the part where Armstrong, the city's highest paid employee, wonders about the railroad bridge. Perhaps if our fine city manager had been just kinda paying attention over the last decade he would know that the railroad owns that bride and is not going to widen it or close it to traffic to allow widening. The only way to widen it without closing the traks would be to build another new bridge alongside the old bridge. Caltrans has made it clear that they have no intention of paying the 50 million to make that happen. Some at city hall think that Union Pacific will widen the bridge on ther own out of the goodness of their heart, but they are fooling themselves. If Armsrong is that clueless he should be fired and replaced with someone that actually pays attention.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 5:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've traveled this stretch of highway and used these ramps all my life with no problem , ever. The maniacs who swerve across lanes to get to the slow lane off ramps are more dangerous than vice versa and accident statistics show it. The fast lane off ramps are as safe or safer than the slow lane ramps in that area, plain and simple.
Since when can saving $50 or $60 million not be a good thing ? Especially when considering that road maintenance funds will be dried up for a long time with this Caltrans plan . Deferred maintenance is already a huge issue, we need the money for road maintenance , and Caltrans should evaluate the alternative plan fairly.
I have no pony in the race , but will be severely disappointed if the alternative plan is not considered by all with open minds and not the closed ones who opine so vehemently here on the indy chats.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 6:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

agree, H-G, and what Armstrong is doing is following madam Mayor's directive to FIND A PROBLEM WITH THE CAL=TRANS PLAN, so he and others bring up the old canard about the So. Pacific bridge -- and So. Pacific has always said they will not fix or change it, and they don't have to. So Salud and Helene and all those other sucking up to Montecito 101's moneybags suddenly call this a big problem, too. Wake up. Let's get some real leaders who care about all the people.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 6:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

nor do I have a pony, geeber, and we've tangled on this before. I have driven this route regulary, 5x per week, since 1980 and I defy your testimony: there have been plenty of near-misses and problems in the lane swerving, you need to observe more closely. As you know, I think the whole boondoggle should be cancelled.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 6:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Agreed, let's turn the entire 101 into a parking lot with idling cars spewing continuous carbon emissions into the air.

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 6:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

You have trouble comprehending "staggered work hours", Botany, think about it for a couple of hours, it's become clear with just a bit of cogitation.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 7:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With all due respect Dr. Dan, alternative traffic reduction solutions have unfortunately been rejected by the powers that be. That ship sailed years ago. The powers that be would include SBCAG and the voters of Santa Barbara County. A three lane project will be built. Our Mayor' s goal should have been to get the best deal for Santa Barbara as to mitigation improvements. Instead she has turned into a shill for a a group of well healed Montecito reactionaries. Common Sense 101 has provided no real alternative plan for the project and no believable facts behind their claim that they can save 50-. 60 million dollars with a project that meets modern engineering standards. The result of Schneider' s grandstanding will be a worse 101 for Santa Barbara and the surrounding communities.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 9:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dan, I'm sure you'll be the first to volunteer to come to work at 3 AM everyday just so we don't need to pander to those rich Montecito folk.

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 25, 2013 at 10:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So if FooFighter gets into this does that make him a foofighter AND a foodfighter?

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 12:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

O.K. ,great idea. Lets spend money we don't have , deplete road maintenance funds to fix something that isn't broken . Like I said , hopefully a few open minds will at least give the alternative a fair evaluation.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 4:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Ah! If we keep the left hand ramps that eliminates the car pool lane? Now I see Common Sense (?) 101's true intentions. Hard to drive your luxury SUV in the left/car pool lane if you are by yourself, eh, Montecito?

fredb93117 (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 7:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

We have to go through the expense of changing the on and off ramps just for an HOV lane? Pathetic!

Botany (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 7:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

People are waking up to the political games and Moneycito chase that are really happening here. Carbajal and Schneider will have some creative spinning in store for them to justify why they want to scrap what the voters approved as the sales tax renewal for the freeway widening and congestion relieve HOV lane as advertised.

This pissing match with Caltrans is not gonna save anyone any money.
Jeramy Lindaman gives bad advice yet again, like backing Landecker to feebly take down Hart to myopically assure that Hotchkiss gets reelected.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 9:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Time for Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson to break Caltrans "my way or no highway" inflexibility.

Caltrans is an archaic, dysfunctional agency where original thinking is not encouraged.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 9:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So that RR bridge the mayor and her Montecito backers want to widen (at the expense of safe on/off-ramps) is owned by Southern Pacific? Have there been any public cost estimates?

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Georgy ... do not mistake Caltrans' insistence on standards for inflexibility.

You're ignoring all the public review meetings and their acceptance of public (including Montecitans') feedback that lead to the F-Modified plan.

Do I need to once again provide links to the Montecito Journal's pages gushing with praise for F-Modified ... before the latest monied faction in Montecito stepped in and declared it "not cool"?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 10:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Georgy .. and let's address your "archaic" label.

Did you see all the visualization devices used by Caltrans to provide designers and the public views of what different freeway options would look like? The computer graphics showed both aerial views and better yet, ground level views that exposed how driver views were blocked by curves and vertical changes in the roadway.

The visualizations were top notch.

But when the Common Crap group from Montectio's "traffic engineer/consultant" showed up for her first Caltrans meeting, her presentation was horrible. Let's just say it was underwhelming and showed a lack of preparation. I recall she kept saying things like, "I haven't had time to take a look at this, but ...".

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 10:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You're in the minority on this one East Beach. Check with the Montecito Association and SBCAG and then get back to us.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 3:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No Georgy you and the "Common Sense" crowd are in the minority. Caltrans had a long public comment period for the project. Over 90% of the written comments were in favor of Plan F modified. Stop confusing money with majority. The part of the SBCAG board that is not in the pocket of Jack and his band of blowhards is in favor of getting the project going. Caltrans builds and maintains one of the largest highway systems in the world and they do a very good job.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 6:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No Herschel. I know you and Eastbeach have strong feelings about this but SBCAG and the Montecito Assc. Do represent the majority.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
November 26, 2013 at 6:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Georgy , Greenspan says Caltrans does a very good job . That comment alone reveals either a vested interest or a willful ignorance of facts . The truth is that Caltrans is bottom of the barrel in state highway efficiciency and cost effectiveness. 48th nationally to be exact. They routinely run up construction costs ( my main beef here) and hide budgetary issues from the Governor and Legislature. Look no further than the SF Bay Bridge fiasco for proof of their engineering ineptitude, costing us millions.
I just wish that open minds , which are in short supply on this chat site, would give the alternative plan a fair shake. Tens of millions of dollars might be saved for much needed use for deferred local road maintenance .

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 4:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

OMG, georgy please, Montecito 101 certainly does NOT represent very many people, check out how many humans live in Montecito! "Jack and his blowhards" is correct. Further, the left-hand side on/off ramps are dangerous, outmoded, and a ridiculous relic of the 1960s. I have driven this stretch from SB to Montecito every weekday since 1980: down with the middle on/off ramps.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 9:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The opinions of the board members of SBCAG and the Montecito Association, and the SB City Council for that matter, do reflect the majority view on the South Coast. However, the strong vocal minority, which I didn't know existed until EastBeach and Herschel educated me about, is pretty vocal.

I don't think anyone on this blog is going to change anybody's mind here. But I will say I would rather cancel the whole project than implement the Caltrans plan. UCSB can let people work online at home.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 11:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The HOV lanes are needed, and a wider bridge over Cabrillo is another priority. The rest is BS.

neighbor (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 11:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Absolutely, we should unite on this: CANCEL THIS UNGAINLY AND STUPID PROJECT. Re-arrange schedules and work schedules, join the 21st century and have 40% work from home on their linked computers...c'mon, the entire freeway concept is OLD THINKING.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 1:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Geeber please let us know what factual basis you have for this whopper:"The truth is that Caltrans is bottom of the barrel in state highway efficiciency and cost effectiveness. 48th nationally to be exact." If it is from the the Reason Foundation report, it is based on flawed and biased methodology. They are funded by the Koch Brothers and are leaders in climate change denial.

Georgy, please let me know where you get the crazy idea that my opinion of this project is in the minority? The opposite is the truth. During the public comment period Caltrans got back about five hundred responses from the public. Four hundred eighty eight of them were in favor of plan F modified,. The Montecito Association may not even represent the majority of people in Montecito. Here is a report from Newshawk:

"In addition, a Montecito businesswoman last week delivered to Gov. Jerry Brown a 1,400-signature petition opposing the Montecito Association proposal and requesting that the project continue as proposed in the existing environmental impact report"

"Since then, stakeholders have been waiting on Caltrans for a recommendation on how to move forward. The Goleta Valley and Santa Barbara Region chambers of commerce, which support the project as is, recently traveled to Sacramento to press their case on behalf of the 80,000 employees they represent. About 15,000 people commute to the Santa Barbara area from Ventura County every weekday."
More people commute on 101 every day than even live in Montecito.

So who is in the minority here Geeber / Georgy?

The C.S.101 plan is a wish plan with no real engineering involved. It is based on flawed assumptions and made up slogans like "it will save $50 million dollars". If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. Ride on you crazy four horsepeople of the traffic apocalypse Helene, Salud, Jack, and Jeremy! SBCAG has already spent $175,000 looking at your halfbaked plan. Oh the savings!

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 2:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Greenspan , there are many metrics used to determine highway system efficiciency and safety . Stats can be found in many places that prove Caltrans to be ineffectual and wasteful. You can start with the Federal Highway Administration , car insurance groups , think tank studies etc., etc.
Everything I've seen points to a poorly run state highway system here in California. We are 14th worst in safety and 5th worst in per mile spending . Additionally , I have a friend that is a Caltrans employee and he confirms that they are terribly mismanaged. Truly bottom of the barrel.
Rather than waste my time proving to you how bad Caltrans is , maybe you could explain to us why you think they are so exemplary. I doubt any informed people will agree with you that " they do a very good job" . Ask San Franciscans about the Bay Bride fiasco or ask anyone who used to surf our local break called Stanley's. Please don't make me cite the endlessly long list of engineering screw ups that Caltrans has committed , but I will if you continue to misinform people about their efficiency.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 5:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Please provide a reference for your statement that Caltrans is 48th in efficiency , you said that number was "exact". It just happens to be exactly the same number quoted in the Reason study.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 27, 2013 at 6:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes , Mr. Greenspan , I did get that 48 th figure from Reason , and am abhorred that I used stats from a Koch Bros. funded think tank. The Koch's definitely rank at the top of my do not like list . In fact I boycott Koch Industries products. That being said , there are numerous other non-Koch entities agreeing with Reason's findings that Caltrans is way below par. If YOU don't want to see it , then I guess it doesn't exist , right?
Now , for your original comment that Caltrans " does a very good job" - could you provide us with the metric used when making that assertion.? I don't trust or like Caltrans and have " concrete" reasons why . Now , convince me otherwise.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2013 at 4:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Show me one unbiased study to support your claim. My comment that Caltrans does a very good job, is based on my personal observations. I never made the claim the they were first or even fifteenth in efficiency in the US. You however, made your 48th in the nation claim based on some crap study by the biased Reason Foundation. Caltrans, like any large organization either public or private is bound to make some big mistakes. Most large engineering projects go over budget.( reference Jerry Jones, Cowboy Stadium) Sometimes there are quality issues like with the Bay Bridge project.

Your beloved Stanley's has been gone for over four decades. It may be time for you to pick up the pieces and move on. At least you have those fond , bronzed memories of a magical place and time . Highway engineering has come along way since then. Today major highway projects in California have a large amount of public input and scrutiny. Back then Caltrans built it where they wanted the way they wanted.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2013 at 8:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I gave you plenty to go on . Just as I thought , you have nothing.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 28, 2013 at 9:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mr. Greenspan , so your feelings are what drive you to believe that Caltrans does such a splendid job , yet you provide no reference to surveys of highway users. , safety stats , or performance reviews.
I get your point about using Reason and agree that was a mistake on my part. They advocate privatization and that could prejudice their review . That being said , I also referenced other sources . Insurance group findings &the Federal Highway Administration just a couple of the many. The consensus among groups who study highway safety and efficiciency is that Caltrans is a bottom tier entity.
Since you don't seem inclined to spend the time researching for info to back up your glowing accolades , I will give you one more source that counters your claim that " they do a very good job".
http://calwatchdog.com/2013/04/02/cal...
You cite your "feelings" and I'm giving you stuff from people and groups actually involved .

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 3:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

georgy, you keep writing about a "strong vocal minority" opposing the Montecito 101 (tiny group!) and it's save the left-side ramps campaign, but at 11/27 @ 2:42 pm HG showed you in detail it is NOT a minority opposing retention of the left-side ramps. Further, EB has given us cool refs to the bell weather Montecito Journal originally supporting the F-modified [eliminate leftside ramps] plan until... MJ as the little messenger-boy plutocratic publication it is realized some top-moneybags types would be inconvenienced by losing their beloved left-side ramps, and Jim reversed field and suddenly supported Montecito 101's utterly self-serving BS. It's SHAMEFUL how Salud, Helene, and others court these robber barons.
Whatever the critiques of Cal Trans, I don't love 'em either, but A] the whole project is ridiculous, maybe the wrangling here in SB will lead Cal Trans to simply bagging the whole project [hurrah!], and B] leftside ramps are arcane, inane, dangerous, and would only "help" a tiny minority of 1%ers in Montecito.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey Geeber did you actually read the calwatchdog reference? It is completely based on the biased Reason Foundation report. Fail

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

DD , you keep repeating this factual fallacy about the left lane ramps being dangerous. Knowing full well that you have closed off your mind on this , I will at least continue to correct you so that others don't fall prey to the misinformation that you spread.
Extensive accident statistic studies show that accident rates are at or lower than average at these ramps in question. Adding HOV lanes through this zone is ,I believe , a mistake. They are more and more proving to be ineffectual and jurisdictions are moving toward removing them. People should consider this when that argument is brought up here.
I'm not wealthy , vested , or have a horse in this race other than being a user of these roads. I would say the problems with these ramps cited by the opposition has more to do with lack of driving skills than with ramp safety.
I'm hoping that open minds prevail and that some serious money can be saved . Money that is sorely needing for deferred road maintenance . Please folks , don't fall prey to the " If it ain't broke , let's fix it " mentality.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 9:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yup Greenspan .... if YOU don't see it , it must not exist.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 11:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

empirically, by personal observation driving this regularly for 34 YEARS since 1980, I attest the leftside ramps are much more dangerous, and will be even more so with full 3-lane through there with HOV: I think your mind is closed on this issue, geeber (though we agree on much else), and I have much more data than you do. Serious money will not be saved unless we cancel the whole project, which I favor. We've already blown $170,000 just listening to Montecito 101 jabber away.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
November 29, 2013 at 12:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DD, all I said in this post is that, "The opinions of the board members of SBCAG and the Montecito Association, and the SB City Council for that matter, do reflect the majority view on the South Coast."

I didn't mention Montecito 101 here, although it sound like they agree with SBCAG, and the SB City Council, and the Montecito Association which I believe they're directly involved with.

The way SBCAG, the Montecito Association, and the SB City Council voted reflects the majority view.

I don't need to write a letter or send an email if my elected officials are voting and reflecting the views I support. Maybe I should send a "Thanks, keep up the good work" letter?

Georgy (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Indy poll supports your argument , Georgy.

geeber (anonymous profile)
November 30, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The 101 south from the Olive Mill road exit to Summerland past the second exit should have “The Funnel”, a supper tunnel that is for cars only and the speed strictly enforced (with cameras) at 45 mph with no lane changing. Like the Golden gate bridge the traffic lanes will be for the commuters. All lanes in the AM going north and at 2PM until 2AM then all lanes going south. There would be no exits except at both ends. There would have be break down lanes on both sides of the three lane road inside “The Funnel”. The Tunnel would be built while the existing 101 is unaffected, except the speed limit would be reduced. The connection at Olive Mill Rd. Bridge would be widened by one lane in each direction north of the overpass to make room for the local traffic and trucks to by-pass the tunnel opening. Likewise at the south opening. There are tunneling machines standing by and the ground is not solid rock, so it will proceed quickly. There will be limited disruption to folks while the holes are being dug and lined with reinforced concrete. Start in the middle and go in both directions simultaneously. Easy, faster for less money. Go-for-IT! S.B

GEO (anonymous profile)
December 4, 2013 at 4:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: