Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal threw some supportive political body English in the direction of the Montecito Association, now lobbying the governor’s office to keep two left-lane exits on Highway 101 heading south toward Los Angeles. While neither Schneider nor Carbajal have actually endorsed keeping the two left-lane exits — one at Cabrillo Boulevard and the other at Sheffield Drive — they sent a letter pressing Caltrans to provide a detailed analysis of the safety issues surrounding left-hand exit lanes before environmental analysis of the proposed freeway widening project is finalized sometime this spring.
Caltrans has argued that the left-lane exits are more dangerous than traditional right-lane exits and for that reason are not considered acceptable. But a private transportation consultant hired by a Montecito group intent on keeping the left-lane exits in place has claimed there’s no evidence to show the Cabrillo and Sheffield off-ramps are any more perilous. Tim Gullen of Caltrans stated that his agency is conducting a thorough analysis of the Montecito Association proposal, but he said he’s not sure when the results will be released. He stressed that he would work closely with Schneider and Carbajal.
Last October, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments voted unanimously that Caltrans study the environmental ramifications of keeping the two left-hand exits; Schneider and Carbajal asked that Caltrans provide the community an update on the progress of that study. The Montecito Associations claims that its freeway widening alternative could be completed two years faster and $50 million cheaper than Caltrans’s proposal. Association advocates have complained that Caltrans has not been forthcoming with the accident data needed to determine the extent to which the two left-lane exits pose a heightened safety risk.