This open house was different. It was organized by the City of Goleta, at Brandon School, and its intent was not to sell luxurious homes at exorbitant prices. Its goal was to inform Goleta residents that the long-awaited overpass between the Glen Annie and the Winchester Canyon freeway exits is finally in the works.
Not too long ago, just in September 2008, 14-year-old Christina Veloz-Payne died trying to cross the freeway. When that happened, the clamor to build a bike and pedestrian overpass got louder, but even before her premature death, many concerned citizens had pushed for it. “With residential areas and multiple destinations on both sides of 101 in western Goleta, traversing 101 is a challenge for dedicated cyclists and an absolute obstacle for others,” said Ralph Fertig, president of the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition. “A new way of crossing without the conflicts of freeway on and off ramps will be a major improvement.”
Eva Inbar, president of COAST (Coalition for Sustainable Transportation) agrees. “COAST supports providing an additional place to cross the freeway in Goleta,” she said, adding that an additional overpass with just two lanes and no ramps will make it much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get around in western Goleta, “providing a connection between neighborhoods, schools, UCSB, and the shopping and recreational activities at Camino Real and Girsh Park.”
With all of this in mind, I met with Rosemarie Gaglione, Capital Improvement Program Manager for the City of Goleta, and she explained that this project is included in Goleta’s general plan, and gave me the reasons why. “Storke Ave at Hollister Avenue is the busiest cross section in the whole county,” she explained. “Trafficshed studies show that if we can provide an alternate way for people to go from north to south, to the Marketplace, Albertsons, or anywhere else, without having to cross that super-busy cross-section, the congestion at that interchange will be alleviated, and car flow will greatly improve.”
The rest of our interview follows.
Q: Wasn’t this meant to be a bike and pedestrian path only?
A: “That’s what some people wanted, but we don’t have the money to build more than one, plus who wants to see so many overcrossings, anyways. It is important to consider that there will not be on and off ramps, and that it will be a two lane only (one lane each way), with very clear demarcations for bikes, and a 6 ft sidewalk for pedestrians.”
Q: Now that you mention the money, where will the funds come from?
A: “We have 7 million from measure A (a sales tax that passed in 2008.) We will also use funds from Developer Impact Fees, and we will also use STIP money (State Transportation Improvement Program.) When the project is more advanced, we will also apply for several grants.”
Q: The open house was very well attended by the community. What’s the feedback that you’ve received so far?
A: “When people give us feedback, we pay attention. They appreciate that we’re coming out this early with information about the project. At the open house we expected around 30-40 people, and we got over 200. People have told me about the alignments they prefer (where the overpass should be located), and why. Some of them had questions about funds as well, and about the impact to the area they live at. The response has been very positive.
Q: Where are the alignment options located?
A: “After a series of studies on 13 different alignments, we have come up with the best three options: A4 – Hollister Ave. and Entrance Rd. on the south side, connecting to Brandon Dr. on the north side, with an approximate cost of $31 million. A-6 – Hollister and Entrance again, to San Rossano Dr. for about $22 million, and C-5 – Hollister and Entrance, to about 200 ft west of Baker Ln. for an estimated cost of $42 million. Before we start the design portion of the project, we will know which one is the best.”
Q: Regarding transportation, will there be a shuttle going between both sides of the community?
A: “I don’t know the answer to that because we don’t do transportation, we only do the roads. That would be a question for MTD, but it sounds like a good, popular route.”
It was getting late and the time for the executive planner to get her carpool to Ventura was close. I only had time for a couple of more questions:
Q: What’s the timeline for this project?
A: “The study part will be done by September or October. We will take the plan to the city council and then we’ll have another open house where we will use a computer program to show the traffic flow, among other things. The second part is the environmental document (EIR), which could take up to 4 years. After that, we will try to get as much money as we can get for the project through the grants I mentioned before. Like I said, we will apply for a good number of them. At that point, we will make the decision on which option is the most viable. Actually, building the overpass is the fast part of the project since it will take around 18 months. Altogether, I would say at least 7 years, if not a little more.”
Q: Out in the community people are concerned about the trees. Will many trees be lost due to this project?
A: Yes, that’s a question I’ve gotten, too. We don’t know yet on this project how many trees should be affected, but I can tell you that for each tree that we take out there are many more that we need to plant; ten to one at times, depending on the kinds of trees. Of course, we have another pocket of money just for landscaping. We will not only take care of the trees, but also of the birds. We will try not to disturb them during their nesting time.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
R: Goleta City Council has given us clear direction on two things: they want us to communicate with the public as best as possible, and they want us to cause the least possible negative impact to people’s quality of life, and that’s what we’ll do.
I also want people to know that we want to do this well and hopefully we’ll have a project that everyone likes. We want to answer everyone’s concerns. If people have doubts, they can call me directly at 805-961-7500 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.