The California Transportation Commission awarded $8.6 million in grants to the City of Santa Barbara for four street-improvement projects designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists and otherwise “increase the safety for non-motorized users.” Three of the projects are slated for the lower Eastside to the tune of $7.2 million. To be replaced are the narrow, rickety bicycle and pedestrian footpaths on Cacique and Soledad streets, which will be switched out with new, well-lit 12-foot-wide bridges. The Cacique Street bridge was originally washed out more than 30 years ago, and the limited passage that’s existed since has emerged as a cause célèbre in the simmering battle to replace at-large elections with district elections throughout the city. City transportation planner Rob Dayton said residents living near the bridges opposed projects that accommodated cars, as well, because they didn’t want the additional traffic in their neighborhood. In addition, the funds would cover the costs of replacing the Montecito Street bridge.
Dayton said the city’s grant application fared so well because most of the money was focused on underserved neighborhoods and that such issues had been the focus of considerable community planning efforts. Those efforts were sparked by the death of 15-year-old pedestrian Sergio Romero in 2011 as he tried to cross Milpas Street. In addition, $1.3 million has been set aside for a multipurpose bike path along Las Positas Road from Cliff Drive to Modoc Road. A condition of the grant requires the money be spent within two years of receipt.