Five hundred million dollars can buy a whole lot of things, and for rush-hour drivers in Santa Barbara, it’s going to buy carpool lanes from Carpinteria to the Sheffield off- and on-ramps. Representatives of the county and cities that make up the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments gathered Thursday morning to celebrate another $183.8 million coming from the state gas tax fund, or Senate Bill 1 (SB 1). That, plus $226 million awarded in March and $140 million from Measure A funds, gets closer to the cost of the total project — which ultimately will meet the third lane that exists at Milpas Street — currently estimated at $585 million. And there’s more.
What the grant calls “Rt 101 Multimodal Corridor” also includes sidewalks, bikeways, coastal access parking, and signage. A new Class I bikeway, a lane completely separated from the road, in Carpinteria and Padaro Lane will connect Carpinteria to Rincon, explained Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo, adding to the California Coastal Trail. In Summerland, a Class II bikeway, a striped lane connected to a road, will go from downtown to North Padaro Lane, and the grant also funds a bikeway and sidewalk at the Evans Avenue underpass. The roundabout at Olive Mill Road and Coast Village Road, and dealing with the traffic-constricting Union Pacific railroad bridge at Cabrillo Boulevard, would be in the next round of grant writing, said Murillo, which would occur in two years’ time, added County Supervisor Joan Hartmann. But Supervisor Janet Wolf delivered a warning.
After iterating that adding a lane to the highway was the highest priority of most who voted for 2008’s Measure A — a countywide half-cent tax for transportation projects — Wolf stated that SB 1 was under attack. A repeal effort was underway to go on the November ballot, Wolf warned.
A search of the proposed initiatives that enter circulation — or are petitions lying on clipboards waiting for signatures by registered voters — at the Secretary of State website turns up one written by Thomas W. Hiltachk, who spearheaded the 2003 recall of then-governor Gray Davis, and then became legal counsel to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the governorship from among a field of 135 candidates. Hiltachk’s petition gatherers have until May 21 to collect 585,407 valid signatures to put “Eliminates Recently Enacted Road Repair and Transportation Funding by Repealing Revenues Dedicated for Those Purposes” on the November ballot as a proposition.
SB 1 is also putting a 2.6-mile-long bicycle- and pedestrian-way that links the beach to Modoc Road along Las Positas, the Bicycle Coalition’s Ed France announced separately in a press release. The $15 million grant from the state Active Transportation Program, whose funds are distributed by the California Transportation Commission, “finally allows a safe connection to the beach and the Mesa that otherwise was just a shoulder on a highway,” France said.
Seen locally, SB 1 not only has funded the 101 high-occupancy vehicle (HOV, or carpool) lane and appurtenances but also added $170 million for trains and buses last month. Statewide, it’s expected to put $5.4 billion toward transportation funding annually. Yet unfunded for the 101 widening project is the span between Milpas and Sheffield — through the litigious reaches of Montecito, though a SBCAG press release also celebrated Judge Thomas Anderle’s decision in the “last remaining challenge to the 101 HOV Project EIR.” The project has about $36 million to go. For Santa Barbara, the stakes in November’s election may have just gone up.