<b>CLEAR-CUT:</b>  Statewide Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty didn’t mince words in a letter explaining that Highway 101’s left-hand off-ramps at Cabrillo Boulevard and Sheffield Drive are “functionally obsolete.”

Paul Wellman

CLEAR-CUT: Statewide Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty didn’t mince words in a letter explaining that Highway 101’s left-hand off-ramps at Cabrillo Boulevard and Sheffield Drive are “functionally obsolete.”

Caltrans’s Way Is the Highway

State Rep Puts Kibosh on Left-Hand Ramps

Thursday, January 2, 2014
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Four days before Christmas, statewide Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty quietly drew a very bright line in the sand regarding his agency’s plans to widen Highway 101 from Montecito to the Ventura border, notifying critics with Common Sense 101, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), and anyone wondering about the fate of the biggest public works project ​— ​worth an estimated $450 million ​— ​to hit the South Coast in decades. Caltrans, the director stated, would give no further consideration to the much-disputed left-hand exit and entrance ramps at Cabrillo Boulevard and Sheffield Drive, stating their retention would pose “long-term safety and operational conditions and are not viable or approvable as part of this project.”

Common Sense 101 ​— ​a group of Montecito activists ​— ​had presented a traffic engineering study showing that there were considerably fewer collisions at these two interchanges ​— ​not more ​— ​and by retaining the left-hand ramps, Caltrans could shave $60 million and two years off the cost and time of construction. In his letters to SBCAG and Common Sense 101, Dougherty took issue with the methodology of the group’s collision analysis. Regardless of the details, he insisted that left-hand ramps are “functionally obsolete” and not as safe as right-hand ramps because they confound driver expectations. He also insisted the alternative plans proposed by Common Sense 101 are no cheaper or faster to build. Common Sense activist Ron Pulice noted that Caltrans has already made 175 design exceptions to the freeway-widening plan and has failed to demonstrate why making another posed an insurmountable problem.

Likewise, Dougherty rejected demands by the City of Santa Barbara that the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) be recirculated for another six months and allow the project to be expanded to include a widening of the railroad bridge by the Bird Refuge on Cabrillo Boulevard. Without this, Mayor Helene Schneider has argued, traffic will become unacceptably backed up along Cabrillo. Past assurances by SBCAG and Caltrans that they’d address the issue have failed to bear fruit, she said. “They’ve been saying trust us for 10 years,” she said, “and nothing’s happened.” The city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously that the project EIR failed to address the increased congestion the freeway widening will cause at some city intersections and that the document needed reworking. Dougherty made it clear that would not be happening, insisting such an effort could delay the project by as many as five years and increase the cost by $9 million.

Dougherty’s letter sets the stage for what promises to be a hot and heavy showdown when the SBCAG Board of Directors meets on January 16. In recent months, Schneider has indicated City Hall might deny Caltrans the necessary coastal development permits if these changes weren’t made. Schneider is hoping to persuade a majority of her fellow SBCAG members to stand up to Caltrans. She pointed out that local taxpayers approved spending $140 million on the freeway widening. On top of that, she said, the SBCAG board has committed $100 million in state gas-tax revenues that would otherwise go to local road repair. By contrast, Schneider said Caltrans hasn’t secured or committed to any of the additional funding the project will need. She’s hoping the redirection of gas-tax revenues ​— ​at a time when road repairs are urgently needed ​— ​and Caltrans’s lack of “good faith” in responding to the concerns of Common Sense 101 will give fellow SBCAG members serious pause.

Still, 79 percent of county voters approved the expansion of an existing sales tax six years ago with the idea that freeway widening was the highest priority. How much traction Schneider gets has yet to be seen. County Supervisor ​— ​and SBCAG boardmember ​— ​Salud Carbajal has pushed Caltrans to meet with Common Sense 101 to hash out the relevant accident data and has scolded Caltrans for not doing so. But, he said, Dougherty’s letter clearly reflects the thoughts and wishes of Governor Jerry Brown. “If it’s a choice of ‘build’ or ‘no build,’ I’m definitely for build,” Carbajal declared. “But there may be other ways to secure the improvements the community clearly wants.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

“functionally obsolete.” Straight up Correct! if Santa Barbara was a backwards small town that didn't have what it does in traffic congestion, sure leave the left hand off ramps alone but ever since I lived in Goleta (1974-1995) and drove through and around Santa Barbara horrendous traffic congestion was always the impediment for automobile drivers; and everyone else uses the Right side off ramps, Montecito activists are just going to "get with the times"!

dou4now (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 6:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Mayor [seeking future funds for future political races from Montecito moneybags], Montecito 101, and the tiny elite there in 'Cito need to get over themselves and let 'em build it. At least Carbajal knows when to back down. However, if Schneider can get SBCAG to face off with Cal Trans, then hopefully Cal Trans BAGS THE WHOLE PROJECT, which would actually be the best solution. Oblige big employers in SB County, e.g. the City and UCSB, to stagger work hours, this could be the thoughtful fix to the traffic congetion dou4now notes.
For geeber and all the other "lefties": Dougherty's comment that the left-side ramps "confound driver expectations" hits the nail on the head.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 7:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Just one minor point. If the issue is commuters that use this freeway 3+ days per week that are causing the congestion. How can the left-side ramps "confound driver expectations"? They probably know every tree, bush and pole going both directions by now.

Botany (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 8:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You can be a backwards small town and still have traffic congestion, like Santa Barbara.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 8:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

When is this project slated to commence? I run a business with a warehouse located in Carpinteria, and will not abide the convoluted commute. I'll be looking into relocating our facility to Goleta from Carp. prior to the mayhem...

MesaJim (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 12:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What Ken Volok said...

Holly (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 2:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

minor point to yours, Botany, the 4+ days @ week commuters are half of the congestion issue (I know, I have been one for 34 years, and I recall the 4 red lights very well!), but the other half is out-of-town drivers hurtling from San Francisco to LA and SD. These have chosen not to take the I 5, and I've seen them jamming through the area under discussion between Hot Springs and Sheffield. It is these drivers who will have their "driver expectations" confounded by bizarre "wrong" side on-ramps and off-ramps. Besides, you detest the left side in any case, always have, most predictable.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 3:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What Jackie Wilson said...

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2014 at 2:04 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I've almost been hit twice on those exits, from people who were not expecting the left hand exit... and upon seeing the exit, swerving into the fast lane at the last second while I'm going 70MPH, and nearly killing me and who knows who else.

adamf (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2014 at 4:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This is turning out to be an interesting game of chicken between two players who are both used to getting their respective ways 100% of the time. Neither rich people nor powerful bureaucrats ever feel the need to negotiate or compromise because, well, they don't have to. The problem with this game of chicken is that neither of the two participants is going to suffer from the ensuing wreck (i.e., the delay of the project due to law suits and trials). That is another thing about rich people and powerful bureaucrats, they seldom experience the consequences of their actions. I recommend a compromise, leave the Cabrillo left exit and on ramp as they are and remove the Sheffield exit and on-ramp entirely. This reduces the cost of the project, reduces one of the dreaded left-hand exits, and satisfies the Montecito folks regarding the time and space needed to create right-hand exits. How many people really need to use the Sheffield exit anyway? With no exit it will make that part of Montecito even more inaccessible and exclusive (both attributes that rich folks like). I would bet that there is a compromise in this debacle, but I doubt whether the rich folks and the powerful bureaucrat are going to find it.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2014 at 4:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Seeing as facts and reason will be trumped by superstition and chicken little alarmists , I frankly no longer give a damn .

geeber (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2014 at 6:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

good stuff, eck!
Geeber, why can't you accept anecdotal evidence, e.g. as offered by adamf...oh yes, you are a spectacular and safe driver so these bizarre and dangerous exits are mere nothings to your Juan Fangio-like driving skills! C'mon, relax geebs, it's good you no longer give a darn since you're wrong, and will help your blood pressure.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 3, 2014 at 9:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just build it. Then it's done.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
January 4, 2014 at 9:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Just finished a 1500 mile drive through NV and CA. Passing through small and big towns, not once did I see a wrong-side on/off-ramp until I returned to SB.

Let's get this project completed and be thankful we don't live in Pahrump, NV.

Happy New Year!

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2014 at 1:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Nice work Malcolm Dougherty! Who the !@#$ do these people think they are? They don't sit on the freeway 4 plus days a week. I can only rationalize this is totally just a stalling tactic in sheeps clothing. Wake up Montecito and smell the coffee.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 3:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

the 'Cito plutocratic gadflies may finally bring us what was once seen as a lunatic wish: Dougherty & CalTrans say fooey! and bag most of the project. And so by weird means, the best result obtains: nothing.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 6:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Doesn't sound like fooey to me. Sounds more like go effe yourself which is the policy I hope they pursue and build it they way Caltrans deems most suitable and safe for all of us. Not just Montecito.

bimboteskie (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2014 at 9:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My guess is Montecito folk don't venture forth on the roadways at rush hour ( Saks doesn't open till 10 and Range Rovers are inoperable before 9am) Pity those poor rich folks who are so concerned about being late to the country club for their T time or brunch.

loganwc (anonymous profile)
January 21, 2014 at 8:58 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's really not every person in Montecito nor is every person in Montecito wealthy nor are those unwealthy residents united one way or another about this project.
We do a disservice to ourselves to make such sweeping generalizations.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 21, 2014 at 9:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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