Upon the loss of appeals by two Montecito residents, the last section of the 101 widening project will complete car pool lanes from Mussel Shoals to Santa Barbara. | Credit: Courtesy SBRoads.com

Two Montecito residents delivered one last blast against the 101 Widening Project, a proposal argued over since it was first proposed in the early 1990s. In their appeal to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Scott Smigel and Bruce Mackenzie argued that without sound walls between the highway and their homes, they faced increased noise and air pollution. Further, they said the flood map Caltrans and County Public Works had used to determine that a sound wall would cause 31 parcels to flood was in error.

The last section of the 16-mile highway project — between the Olive Mill overpass and the Romero Creek Bridge — will complete a carpool lane from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara. Defending the project, Joe Erwin of Caltrans said they had considered all the ways to allow floodwaters to pass — gates, stilts, holes, collapsing and staggered walls — but none met federal standards, which were necessary for funding.

Appellant Smigel, who lives just north of the highway, said the highway noises are already “excruciating.” Nearly a dozen public speakers who lived in the area agreed with him.

Fred Luna with S.B. County Association of Governments explained that the improved road surface used through Carpinteria dropped the noise level by 3-5 decibels, which Supervisor Das Williams, who lives right by the highway in Carp, affirmed. Erwin added that where roadside noise exceeded 75 decibels, compensation has been offered to 15 property owners.

The flooding issue was the tipping point for Williams, who said Montecito had formed geologically by the historic overtopping of its creeks. “If I upheld this appeal and someone died in your neighborhood because of it in the next 50 years, it would be my fault,” he said. The supervisors voted 4-0 for the project to go forward — Supervisor Bob Nelson had left by then — with the addition of five years’ maintenance for landscaping along the fence, as requested by Susan Petrovich, Mackenzie’s attorney.


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