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Advocating Safer Passage

The Mission Heritage Trail Association (MHTA, aka “Safe Passage”) comprises a diverse group of citizens, including property owners, neighborhood associations, and others interested in addressing safety and historic resource preservation problems within the culturally rich, transportation artery of Los Olivos and Mission Canyon Roads from Mission Historical Park to Foothill Road. Initially formed as an ad hoc group in 2011, the MHTA became a nonprofit organization in 2015. Our website: http://www.missionheritagetrailassociation.org/

For eight years MHTA has studied the Mission Canyon corridor and shared our findings with local government leaders to find ways to improve safety while preserving the historic qualities of the Mission Canyon bridge and surrounding areas. MHTA does not claim to have all the answers and has never proposed a “plan.” MHTA did help to persuade the Santa Barbara City Council, in consultation with the County of Santa Barbara, to commission the respected consulting company, the Wallace Group, to study the complex issues raised and to devise the framework for a plan to improve safety, achieve mandatory ADA modifications, while preserving the area’s resources.

There have been some misleading claims about the MHTA, the safety of the corridor, the demands of the ADA, as well as the integrity of the project and its participants. In a recent letter, an opponent of the study asserted that the claim “that the Mission Canyon corridor is unsafe is not based on evidence.” This claim ignores the eight recent crashes on the west side of the bridge. Moreover, owners of several adjacent properties attest to the veracity of over 20 serious crashes they have witnessed, at least six of which sheared the power pole abutting the bridge, resulting in power outages, event cancellations, food spoilage, and numerous street closures. One accident resulted in partial paralysis of the driver. The current configuration of the bridge and approaches are dangerous in many respects.

Another claim has been that a “Historic Resources Report by Ronald L. Nye notes the bridge maintains its (1890s) integrity.” In fact, Dr. Nye’s report documented that, in 1930, the bridge was widened, its arc and parapets changed, its deck extended 12 feet, and the roadway leveled.  Hence the keystone on the west side is dated 1930; the east side’s keystone, visible under the 1929 pedestrian walkway, retains the 1892 date.  Dr. Nye confirmed in writing on July 28, 2019, that what you see today is not the 1890s original bridge.

Still another claim has been that “… the pedestrian walkway…would be fairly easy to retrofit for ADA access.” MHTA analysis by professional architects using legal guidelines shows that the existing footbridge configuration and intersection of roads cannot be simply modified to meet ADA standards. When that obsolete and unsound pedestrian bridge is replaced, we want it done in accordance with applicable laws and standards.  

In summary, MHTA believes the community should universally support sound civic planning in one of the most environmentally and historically sensitive towns in the country, and we applaud the City of Santa Barbara for initiating the planning process for the beloved Mission Canyon corridor.

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