<b>SNUG AS A BUG:</b> California drivers have been waiting since 1989 for the traffi c on the highway through Santa Barbara to ease up.

Paul Wellman (file)

SNUG AS A BUG: California drivers have been waiting since 1989 for the traffi c on the highway through Santa Barbara to ease up.

Widen the 101 Now

Highway Spans the National Coast, Not Just Montecito’s

Thursday, September 26, 2013
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In November 1989, 23 years ago, the voters passed Measure D to provide road improvements in Santa Barbara County with a 0.5 percent increase in the sales tax. The number one reason for its passing was to widen the 101 from Santa Barbara to the Ventura county line to six lanes to reduce traffic congestion. For this portion of the project $15 million was budgeted.

Caltrans opened public hearings from Santa Barbara to Carpinteria. The state transportation agency got nothing but opposition to the planned efforts from the local residents. Caltrans and the locals were treating this stretch of road as their residential street or country lane. Caltrans totally mismanaged the event and ignored the most important part of the plan, and that is that the 101 is a national highway, not a country lane, and is used and owned by the millions of Californians and Americans who must use it every day. While the locals should have “some say” in the project, they should never be allowed to have the final decision. However, Caltrans did just that, and the widening project was cancelled due to its colossal mismanagement of the process.

Now here we are 23 years later (with déjà vu all over again) with the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) widening project as a part of Measure A, which was passed with the number one priority of widening the 101, and Caltrans is again mismanaging the process by letting the locals define the issues and again objecting to all of the five proposals.

Again Caltrans is not placing the emphasis on the national aspect of the 101 national highway. Again Caltrans is mismanaging the program. They again are only considering the local opinion and not the millions of travelers and commuters who must use the 101 daily. They are left out by Caltrans.

These same locals are the very self-serving people who killed the remodeling of the Miramar Hotel, resulting in what is today a civic wasteland. To repair that damage, they want to waive TOT (transient occupancy tax) payments for 10 years. Vision and anything of quality is lacking with this group in Montecito.

Caltrans is proposing to spend $385 million on a 10-mile stretch of highway, or over 10 times what they spent on a similar stretch of the 101 at Santa Maria where the cost was $30 million for a 10-mile stretch.

To placate the selfish and self-serving locals in Montecito, Caltrans is “gilding the lily” with plantings and sound walls. Montecito deserves nothing better than Santa Maria, Goleta, Ventura, or Calabasas do. That is, a six-lane freeway with a concrete divider between them. Sound walls make the freeway look like a prison. Plantings are costly to maintain.

Caltrans must reform its plans for this HOV project and place the emphasis on the needs of the millions of Americans who use this national highway and reduce cost by taking the simplest, most direct approach to the engineering possible. Taxpayers cannot afford such grandiose plans just for the stuffy people in Montecito.

In the past 20 years, the Chinese have built an 1,800-mile high-speed rail system across China and connected Mongolia, Russia, and Tibet with China by rail and road. They have also helped build the East Bay Oakland Bay Bridge.

So we are still waiting for Caltrans to widen 10 miles of the 101. Why don’t we hire China to do the job?

Justin Ruhge has lived on the Central Coast for 34 years where he has been a conservative activist and writes the blog Concerned Taxpayers. He is retired from the aerospace business as a program manager and research engineer.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

CalTrans planning has already harmed Montectio. It closed the on-ramp at the Bird Refuge, congesting Coast Village Road beyond its capacity, to the detriment of citizens and merchants. There is good reason to be cautious. In the "101 In Motion" 2006 final report, it was noted that, while they studied 'technologies such as AVT, APM, and PR [methods to haul autos on trains or systems used at airports] [they did] not include an elevated monorail system that uses a slender mono-beam and proven technology. That is a separate alternative. These technologies could follow an alignment along the 101 freeway corridor, or could follow the parallel Union Pacific (UP) rail corridor." Since that time, monorail systems have been built in China which demonstrate their feasibility for congestion relief similar to what is required here. See for information. Since a monorail was not considered previously, it might be worth taking a look at it now, with the cost estimates now headed toward the half billion dollar range.

zauche (anonymous profile)
September 27, 2013 at 4:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So Rughe wants the freeway through SB to look just like all the other freeways in Cali . Good for him. I don't trust Caltrans and have seen their ineptitude in action here for decades. It's a long list of screw ups and bad planning. Good on Common Sense 101 for standing up to that monolith.
A little reminder about Rughe and his far right Tea Party agenda- in 2001 he famously wrote letters to local media with this gem - " Muslims are out to destroy our world" . Get to know Mr. Rughe and you might share my disdain for him.

geeber (anonymous profile)
September 27, 2013 at 7:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey now Rughe may have some whacko ideas, but he is an intelligent man who is a published author. On this topic he is right. The money is there, the plans after years of review are very good. Build it already. Helene has to run out of cans of whup ass soon enough. If she keeps pissing off Caltrans and SBCAG the project may start to look like the 101 in Santa Maria or Salinas.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
September 27, 2013 at 7:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

So Mr Rughe wants to make Cito to look just like Santa Maria, Ventura, and Goleta.... HMM... And he wants to hire the Chinese to do so?? He blames the "Self-serving people of Montecito" for "killing the remodeling of the Miramar". I think perhaps he may be suffering from a little wallet envy, as well as being a tad (a lot) delusional. To blame the demise of the Miramar on the citizens of Monticito is strange too. I wonder if he's aware of any market forces that have been standing in the way of big developers for the last 5 yrs.? Prolly not. Why would the Indy give any space to this rant?

BondJamesBond (anonymous profile)
September 28, 2013 at 2:08 p.m. (Suggest removal)

When the writer suggests that the Chinese who, prior to constructing high speed rail system and roads, conquered Tibet, forcing out the government of a peaceful people, while unleashing unremitting cruel punishment on innocents, should be hired to widen 101, I can only shake my head and write this small comment.

Democracy is messy, damned messy. but advocating that local citizens' should have "some say" (meaning lip service to be ignored) about how government should treat them is almost surprising. But, maybe not. There are many in Congress who advocate shutting down the government entirely.

Sometimes, it seems, a minority should control things. Other times, they should be ignored. Rather than trying to decide which is best is rarely a matter of principle. Too often, it is simply a matter of power.

ENAR (anonymous profile)
September 28, 2013 at 11:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It is unlikely the Chinese are interested in widening the 101. It happens that the the longest monorail in the world is being used successfully in China to ease congestion, as is being done on most every continent around the world. Rather than widen the freeway, the existing median could be used to site the towers for the monorail, providing a light rail alternative without the need to acquire a new right-of-way. The current projected cost of the 10 miles in question could be enough to run a monorail from Ventura to Goleta. It would be economic, green, safe and fast. It was not originally considered by the 101 planners, the technology has evolved during the time delay and it might offer a more acceptable solution at the present time.

zauche (anonymous profile)
September 29, 2013 at 6:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I like the monorail idea.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
September 29, 2013 at 8:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting idea. How wide a footprint would a monorail require? The center median looks pretty skinny through parts of the corridor. What happens at overpasses? Enough room to go under/through/over?

I don't know if the technology exists, but light rail without the overhead lines that could use the existing heavy rail infrastructure would be neat if a sharing arrangement could be hammered out with SP?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 9:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I also like the monorail idea but that would require "thinking outside the box" which is in short supply around here. While I've almost never agreed with Ruhge on anything, he's correct when stating "Taxpayers cannot afford such grandiose plans just for the stuffy people in Montecito" -- but he forgets that the 1% 'Cito' plutocrats explicitly don't want/feel they're better than...Goleta! Santa Maria (heaven's sakes!)!! Ventura! and lawdy lawdy Calabasas!
Yet Ruhge loses credibility when comparing the situation to China: their elevated RR to Tibet, an engineering marvel to be sure (pressurized train cabins above ca. 14000 ft!), is designed to move Han Chinese into an occupied country they conquered bloodily some decades back. Think again, Justin!
Build it now, or fund the monorail concept.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 10:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Get over it people it's time to widen the freeway. Mr Rughe was just giving an example how we can't get anything done in this county any more. The fact is the majority of the people voted to widen the freeway by rising taxes were in China they don't vote.
We have pie in the sky ideas that people won't use or should we be like China and force everyone to use a mono rail system.

mesadad (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 11:50 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Again( and again and again and again) there are significant numbers of non- Montecito residents who want to save money and time on this project. Caltrans has a long history of bad planning and this group of commenters ( I call them the " if it ain't broke , let's fix it crowd") need to concentrate more on the message and less on the messengers.

geeber (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 6:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK: don't do it at all [non-starter]; try monorail concept [non-starter]; proceed with the plan based on basic safety which means omitting the unsafe left-hand ramps. I go with the concept that CalTrans legally can't build new freeways with substandard [= center lane/lefthand side] features due to inevitable lawsuits against the State of California.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
September 30, 2013 at 7:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

DD , good.... a post without citing the societal class of those who dare question oftentimes archaic Caltrans planning. Statistics are vital to good planning . Numerous studies have shown the Hot Springs and Sheffield ramps to be at or below area averages for accidents at ramps. The stats say no problem. Please don't cite HOV lanes . Efficacy of those lanes is proving to be very poor and in some areas they are beginning to be phased out. If safety is your concern I suggest you consider the many screwed up ( think Caltrans planning) slow lane on ramps in the area. Santa Monica northbound, Linden northbound ,San Ysidro south bound ( past Miramar) . Now those are unsafe . Again I question the logic of the " if it ain't broke , let's fix it " crowd.

geeber (anonymous profile)
October 1, 2013 at 4:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't you mean the "if it ain't broke, let's fix it no matter what it costs" crowd?

Botany (anonymous profile)
October 1, 2013 at 4:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's "broke" all right. The congestion is real. The pollution caused by cars just standing or creeping along is real. The lost productivity of people just sitting in their cars is real. My questioning is directed at the wisdom of widening, with re-designs that impact the community, viz the congestion on Coast Village Road (a city taxing source) after Cal Trans closed the entrance by the Bird Refuge. Since they are used all over the world today, a monorail -- elevated light rail -- is hardly an unrealistic suggestion. I was surprised to learn it had not been included in the "101 In Motion" report, had not been considered and evaluated. CalTrans is a hammer. A hammer only understands one solution, slamming down on a nail. With all the time that's being consumed, why not look at other alternatives? Why not consider use of a different tool?

zauche (anonymous profile)
October 1, 2013 at 9:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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