Traffic in downtown Santa Barbara has been manic this week, when first a commercial-sized cement truck spilled its contents down Anacapa Street during Farmers Market Saturday. Then, during the work week, the same street was down to a single lane for a block or two while narrow channels of asphalt were dug up and repaved. Quick detours and late-to-meetings was the state of things this week.
Copious amounts of concrete fell from the rear drum of a Mission Ready Mix truck on Saturday morning, spanning Anacapa Street from the 100 block of East De la Guerra to the East Cota Street intersection. The three-block traffic hazard was caused by a driver who had been operating commercial vehicles on his own for less than a week. He’d set the drum rotation to “spill” rather than “mix” when he left a construction site, SBPD Spokesperson Anthony Wagner said. His mistake caused a massive delay while Public Works closed the road for several hours to remove the mess. The California Highway Patrol inspected the truck and found several equipment-related Vehicle Code violations. As a result, a case against the driver and Mission Ready Mix has been referred to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office for charges of spilling hazardous waste, dumping load on roadway, and not securing load.
As for the street work ongoing downtown and all over Santa Barbara, some is part of the city’s annual maintenance to stay ahead of road wear and tear, and others involve private contractors probing the nether regions of the city’s infrastructure. The repaving work on Anapaca Street should end on Friday, city engineer Adam Hendel said, and is a minor repair of the worst cracks and potholes. The work precedes a major resurfacing project next year, set to follow SoCal Edison’s trenching down the street as part of the utility’s infrastructure upgrade to improve the reliability of the city’s flow of electricity.
Beginning next week, Hendel warned, the block of Anapamu Street by the library — or between State and Anacapa — will lose its eastbound lane as the Santa Barbara Museum of Art renovation starts its sidewalk enhancement project. The bus stop will move up to Victoria Street for the duration, and when it returns, it will sit in a wider sidewalk “bulb out” at the mid-street crosswalk between the library and the Granada Garage.
The concatenation of resurfacing going on around town represents a backlog of neglected maintenance on the city’s larger streets, Hendel said. The funding comes in part from Measure C, approved by voters in 2017 to increase the city’s sales tax to 8.75 percent. The initiative provides about $22 million per year for street and storm drain upgrades and maintenance, and it also will help fund the city’s much-needed new police station, which is still in the planning stages. The work continues until the rain falls, Hendel hazarded.
The city’s old street-lighting system turned up during the “Mission Possible” project taking place up and down Mission Street. Regulars on the route have found themselves stuck as traffic signals turn from red to green and back again before being able to drive on. City engineer Max Kashanian explained they had to close Mission at De la Vina for several days while truckloads of contaminated dirt were removed from where a gas station once stood. “We were supposed to dig down a foot or two,” Kashanian said, “but we had to go eight feet down.” Three tanks were uncovered from the gas station in the process, and also part of the old gas-lamp petrol-pump system. “It was 60? 80? years old,” he marveled at the brass tank that turned up, “and not a spot on it.”
Kashanian worried that drivers were mad about the unanticipated closure of the road, but he said it was in order to keep the project on schedule. The work at that corner should end by Friday, he said, but crews would be back around the end of September for the asphalt grinding. “It’s going to be really noisy getting rid of all the humps and bumps,” he said, “but we’re on track to complete the Mission Street project as planned.”