The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) Policy Board has just informed the taxpaying public that the widening of the last 10 miles of traffic-jammed Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria will take at least 10 more years. The present estimated cost is $425 million. At this rate, it will be a billion if it ever happens.
The local “rail lobby” is doing everything it can to stop this vital national treasure from being modernized by means of lawsuits against the road improvement EIR (environmental impact report.) As if commuter Amtrak could solve this daily traffic jam over the remaining 10 miles of unimproved highway. The lobby has lots of money, and Santa Barbara is helping.
Readers will recall that the widening of Highway 101 was the priority of Measure D in 1989. It never happened because of opposition like this. So along came Measure A in 2008, a 100 percent increase in the taxes, and again the top priority was widening 101. Here we are eight years later and still “thinking about it.” And this widening of 101 was the first priority of voters who supported the tax increase.
In the meantime, Highway 101 at Santa Maria was widened to six lanes, the Santa Maria River Bridge has been widened to six lanes, the Union Valley Parkway has been built, and Ventura County has widened 101 at La Conchita to the county line.
Santa Barbara does not seem to be making much progress while millions of people wait in endless lines on 101 at Santa Barbara with daily traffic jams. There seems to be a giant lack of motivation on the part of SBCAG and its members in solving this last piece of widening on 101. Those responsible for this dereliction of duty are the five county supervisors, and the eight city councils in the county. Our national highway is locked in the hands of the self-serving thoughtless local people.
And more commuter trains on the Union Pacific right-of-way will not solve this problem.
SBCAG does not seem to be capable of solving this problem. This is a national disaster that needs emergency priority to get it done. Caltrans and/or the federal government need to take it out of their hands and make it happen.
Splitting the project into two parts, as SBCAG has done, has resulted in gridlock that will never get done or maybe in 10 years which will only add costs.