The gas line that serves Santa Barbara forms one of the greater challenges in reinforcing and rebuilding the bridges across the creeks that the Montecito debris flow smashed and cracked 21 months ago. Five bridges along State Route 192 reopened during the past year, and Caltrans has begun to concentrate on the sixth.
The bridge closures have forced thousands of vehicles to detour around the 192 after the bridges funneled or trapped boulders, trees, and great cascades of mud-laden water in the early morning of January 9, 2018 — propelled by unprecedented bursts of rain that dropped a half inch in five minutes onto the Thomas Fire–scorched hillsides.
The western-most of the six, Montecito Creek Bridge, supports not only a gas line but also multiple other utility services, as does a pole placed too close to any travel lane that might be temporarily opened across the bridge, said Jim Shivers, a Caltrans spokesperson. The eastern, Carpinteria side of the gas line was capped and rerouted first because that bridge, Arroyo Paredon, was further along, he said. At Montecito Creek, the multiple utilities had to be moved off the bridge and relocated nearby with temporary lines to maintain service for customers. Coordinating all the utilities put the project into the winter months, said Shivers, when very wet conditions hit the construction site. Creek flows had to be diverted so that foundation work could begin.
The other bridges first opened as a single lane — Toro Creek Bridge is still just one lane — but at Montecito Creek, the roadway is very tight and one utility pole is in just the wrong spot. It would be a hazard if traffic were cruising by where repair work was ongoing, Shivers said. He expected the bridge would reopen in mid-December after the bicycle railing was installed.
Correction: On Oct. 17, the months since the 1/9 Debris Flow was corrected to 21 from 22.