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Increased traffic on a widened Highway 101 will have a ripple effect on city traffic congestion, in particular at the railroad bridge at Cabrillo Boulevard, that needs to be addressed in the project plans now, not later.

Paul Wellman (file)

Increased traffic on a widened Highway 101 will have a ripple effect on city traffic congestion, in particular at the railroad bridge at Cabrillo Boulevard, that needs to be addressed in the project plans now, not later.


Highway Drama Obscures Important Issues

A Wider 101 Means Sound Walls, Fencing, and City Street Impacts


Sunday, January 5, 2014
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Nick Welsh’s Caltrans’s Way Is the Highway again puts the Highway 101 Widening Project focus and headline on the continuing drama about left-hand exit and entrance ramps, which are only a minor part of this regional plan to increase the highway’s capacity. There are other far-reaching considerations and consequences that warrant a headline and discussion.

While only a small part of the project falls with city limits, that part requires the city’s consideration and approval of a Coastal Development Permit that must be consistent with the city’s Local Coastal Plan and the California Coastal Act, as well as the city’s very specific Highway 101 Coastal Parkway Design Guidelines.

The 101 Widening Project cannot solely be about the freeway lanes; it also needs to improve the increased congestion it causes on Coast Village Road, and the interchanges at Cabrillo Boulevard and Olive Mill/Coast Village Road. The Union Pacific Bridge at Cabrillo Boulevard must be replaced in order to alleviate significant traffic congestion under any project proposal. The project and Environmental Impact Report (EIR) need to address other freeway interchanges on city streets that already don’t function well and will further degrade due to additional vehicles as a result of widening the freeway. The project not only needs to preserve coastal access across the freeway at Cabrillo Boulevard, it needs to improve that access rather than worsen it.

The EIR as currently written does not accomplish any of these goals, which is why on September 5, 2013, the City Planning Commission voted 7-0 to repeat its prior statements to Caltrans that the EIR should be recirculated to include these items into the project and fully analyze the local street traffic implications.

There are other project-specific and cumulative negative impacts to traffic and aesthetics that the project is either failing to acknowledge, making no attempt to mitigate, or both. Congestion on other existing stretches of the highway and city intersections will worsen, historic and iconic views will change, landscaping and skyline trees will vanish, additional sound walls and center median fencing will spring up.

This is not new news to Caltrans. For over five years of project development, the city has provided consistent direction to Caltrans that any improvements to the highway must address elements within city policies. The benefits, impacts, and alternatives as a whole must be considered. It’s frustrating that the vast majority of the media and public discussion continues to focus on the left-hand ramps, while Caltrans continues to ignore or fail to work on these elements.

While the city’s policy documents are sometimes vague, sometimes specific, and often both, they ultimately lead to processes and considerations designed to acknowledge, protect, and enhance our unique setting, historical presence, and charm, and in relation to the Coastal Development Permit, our treasured connection to the coast. While these considerations cut a wide path across many city policies, codes and guidelines, they ultimately focus on our quality of life for both residents and visitors.

There is a reason our city looks, feels, and acts as it does. You seemingly blink, and in a moment something is lost forever: little charms piled upon other lost charms, a view here or there is just not there anymore, a familiar stretch of landscaping given away to hardscape, the drive into town a little more somewhere else than what was here. It’s a challenging balancing process in an older, built-out city that is constantly pressured to change. This project poses a potential threat to a whole assortment of those charms, views, and landscapes … along with increased traffic and other quality-of-life concerns.

Our history has shown that when we combine increased traffic capacity while also respecting local street impacts and aesthetics, everyone wins. The State Street underpass, Milpas roundabout, and Cacique Street underpass are all good examples, and they all began with initial resistance by Caltrans until the community discussion finally resulted in Caltrans’s full cooperation and positive results.

To be clear, increased capacity will certainly benefit the community and region as a whole; however, it is also clear that much of the discussion that should be taking place is missing. This project should be the best we can do, not simply the best offered. That’s where the rest of this discussion should start.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

An honest question ... how does the freeway project cause increased congestion along Coast Village Rd and the Cabrillo & Olive Mill interchanges?

Is the assumption that the project results in increased freeway capacity (not just faster speeds) and a fixed percentage of that volume "bleeds" into the interchanges?

If so, aren't there other issues that affect the bleed rate? For example, if the city remains very expensive for tourists, and /or the number of housing/hotel units doesn't increase, and/or we don't increase capacity of interior surface streets, and/or we don't increase the number of parking lots, etc. ... then don't they become limiting factors as well?

In other words, does the EIR predict that the limiting factor for the "bleed rate" is the interchanges and not the other things mentioned?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2014 at 1:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I appreciate Jordan's angle, but doesn't it also reflect some heavy hubris and presumption about "City of Santa Barbara"? Do people imagine Cal Trans negotiates all the time at this level with every local municipality through which it crosses? Jordan writes, "While the city’s policy documents are sometimes vague, sometimes specific, and often both, they ultimately lead to processes and considerations designed to acknowledge, protect, and enhance our unique setting, historical presence, and charm, and in relation to the Coastal Development Permit, our treasured connection to the coast." Ahh, yes, "our unique setting" as we sell ourselves as a resort to LA, build up the restaurants and bars and shopping along State St... I've lived here since the mid-60s as a lot of what Jordan writes so movingly about has long been lost. Just build it! Or, better, bag the entire project...if we keep fussing with Cal Trans, this is what they may do! Perhaps best.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2014 at 4:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with Jordan that Montecito has sucked the air right out of the "evaluation" room by delaying the project with a string of headline-grabbing, but unbuildable ideas.

However, I do not agree that the Caltrans preferred project, previously supported by the city planning commission, will add to congestion on Coast Village Road. The Caltrans design includes a south bound on-ramp to LA, which will greatly relieve the congestion on CVR.

The little-discussed lack of a southbound on-ramp is one reason over 1,500 locals recently presented a petition to SBCAG and the Governor opposing the Montecito plan and demanding a southbound on-ramp be part of whatever is built. Most of the city's planning commissioners strongly supported a southbound on-ramp, but Jordan failed to put their request in the PC letter to Caltrans, which he signed as chair.

Brunswick (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2014 at 5:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It was Mayor Schneider 's can of woop ass on behalf of her Montecito patrons that sucked all the air out of the room. As I predicted, Helene's antics have only served to get a worse project for Santa Barbara.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
January 5, 2014 at 6:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I love Mr. Jordan's comments! Whether you agree with them or not, this is how massive city plans were made when I moved to Santa Barbara 37 years ago. Certainly not Caltran's Way is the Highway. If Caltran's has ignored other congestion, Union Pacific Bridge and other other interchanges, then they aren't studying the complete project and more time has to be taken.

sbpaddy (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 2:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good Lord the egos of people in this community are as big as all outdoors. Wah, wah, wah us Montecitans shouldn't be inconvenienced a bit just to help improve one of the two major north-south highways in California. Please. There are about 10,000 people in Montecito, and 100,000 people in SB city vs 38 million in California. Get over yourselves.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 3:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Wah, wah, wah us Montecitans shouldn't be inconvenienced a bit just to help improve one of the two major north-south highways in California. Please. There are about 10,000 people in Montecito, and 100,000 people in SB city vs 38 million in California. Get over yourselves."

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 3:17 p.m

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usGObv...

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
January 6, 2014 at 7:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

No problem. Just close the ramps at Cabrillo and the freeway will not affect the surface streets there. Close all of the Montecito ramps as well while you're at it.

The rest of us need more freeway lanes now, Helene!

fredb93117 (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2014 at 7:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

dp14: relevance?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2014 at 9:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This article captures much of what Santa Barbara is about. Little views. Small areas of native grass next to the freeway. Landscaping instead of concrete.

For the last 30 years the City has allowed policies of over-development to slowly change Santa Barbara into a place that feels more like Los Angeles or some hardened dense City.

This 101 project, with the Caltrans insensitivities, damages the way the City looks, feels, and acts to the point that it feels foreign to those of us who called Santa Barbara home for the last 30-40- years. All the do-gooders with their progressive pro-housing agenda killed the golden goose. All that housing could have gone anywhere in the State or Country, but developers make bigger profits forcing it on coastal communities. Sad.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
January 7, 2014 at 9:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

fredb93117 got it! CLOSE ALL the 'Cito ON- & OFF-RAMPS! Saves ton of money, and, uh, Helene: it will serve YOUR masters, the City of SB voters, not those 'Cito PACs whose money-bags you may be hoping to tap...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2014 at 10:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Am I the only one who noticed that the street in the photo is Carrillo and not Cabrillo Blvd.?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2014 at 11:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

you are correct, Ken, that's Carrillo Blvd. looking toward the ocean and the freeway overpass, some miles from the "railroad bridge at Cabrillo Boulevard" mentioned in the caption. It's a file photo, not one taken for this story.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2014 at 2:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The issue is too many people. No matter what direction Caltrans takes, the fact is that we have too many commuters commuting into SB. Aside from the usual Sunday summertime congestion, the only time there is a traffic issue is during rush hour. All these folks are coming in from the south. Which means we're importing a lot of our workforce.

I believe that the employers of these commuters owe us something in return for their discounted labor. After all they're the ones importing their workforce, a workforce that gives back very little to the local communities.

If the money is earned here but spent south, what do we as tax payers get besides a traffic nightmare and a ever increasing social /community disparity? To make matters worse, we give tax credits to these very companies that employ these commuters, further devouring an ever shrinking tax base ( the population of tax paying citizens).

But the worst part is that its not going to get better in our lifetimes. This is as good as it will be. That is until we can have self driving cars or grow some balls and take back the rail line, we're going to have more cars, more people and more headaches for as long as most of us will live regardless of a left exit or a new entrance...

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2014 at 5:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

agree, iamsome, so let's rally to stop this concrete madness right now; NONE of it is a good idea, we need to solve this locally without CalTrans obscene earth-moving monsters munching months and months, years and years...

DrDan (anonymous profile)
January 8, 2014 at 6:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Dayton/Jordan: How again does expanding the freeway capacity increase surface street congestion?

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 7:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Good Grief!
Seems so many posters are so stuck on "hating those evil 'Montecito' people" that they can't see the forest through the trees.

The problem having to be dealt with now is not the fault of Montecito, it is Caltrans' own creation... and they created a complete clusterf*ck.

Sure, the people of Montecito are bitching about it, but rightfully so. Should any of you find yourselves at the Southern end of Cabrillo wanting to go South on the 101, you'll feel it too. See, back when Caltrans first did the "widening" project from Hot Springs towards the North, combined with the 3 lanes all the way to Olive Mill Southbound... they completely neglected to tell anyone about a "small detail" until the project was already done. i.e. that the Southbound on ramp "temporary" closure was actually permanent.

Now, for all you folks that think this isn't a big deal because you don't live in 'cito, guess again. See, the traffic now has to ALL go down Coast Village Road and enter the freeway at Olive Mill. You need to experience that mess to truly get a feel for how bad that is. Sure, the business owners in Montecito are pissed (rightfully so) but the people having to traverse that route are equally inconvenienced, as the majority of them never wanted to be in Montecito in the first place.. .they just wanted to drive past East Beach and hop onto the freeway. Cabrillo backs up all the way to the volleyball courts in the Summer for this exact reason.

You don't like pollution? Great, neither do I. I also know that a moving car generates a hell of a lot less of it per mile than one that is stuck in gridlock.

Are there other issues that Caltrans needs to address in this ever maddening project? Sure, of course there is. Why not be proactive and speak up about those and stop whining about "those nasty rich people in 'cito" wanting their on ramp back?

cartoonz (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 10:47 p.m. (Suggest removal)

They can't see the traffic for the cars.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 10, 2014 at 11:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

good grief, cartoonz, listen to JL: "10,000 people in Montecito, and 100,000 people in SB city vs 38 million in California." and many millions use this section of freeway and NONE of them will be used to left-side stuff. You seem guilty of what you're preaching against, so concerned about those Montecito elite who might lose their convenient left-side ramps. Baloney.

DavyBrown (anonymous profile)
January 11, 2014 at 11:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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