Paul Wellman (file)

State Transit Monies Pour into Santa Barbara

Grants Program Adds a Station, Buses, and More Train Service

California’s State Transportation Agency just poured $170.5 million into area transit needs. The bounty comes from Senate Bill 1 gas-tax funds and also cap-and-trade money that had not included inter-city rail until State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson insisted on it during budget hearings. “It’s really true that the squeaky wheel gets the rail,” Jackson cracked, adding that she was thrilled to see “everything come together so beautifully for a real future for inter-city rail.”

After decades of wrestling over rail usage, Santa Barbara has two new services being added to the Pacific Surfliner, which finally gained a morning-commute time in early April. The $147.9 million award adds a Pacific Surfliner round trip, and one more to the San Luis Obispo run. Jennifer Bergener, who heads Surfliner, indicated “additional double track and siding extensions” were part of the overall project. Increasing ridership was “high” in the grant rating, the award stated, as was reducing greenhouse gas emissions, estimated to be 1.16 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

Goleta’s new train station will evolve from the $6.7 million purchase of the lot opposite the existing platform. With $12.75 million in grant monies, the city intends to renovate the parcel to add 128 parking spaces and an 8,000-square-foot station, possibly by 2023. A hospitable and safe area is needed, Councilmember Michael Bennett said, noting that UCSB buses students all the way to Santa Barbara’s downtown train station because it provides a lighted, indoor area.

Another $9.6 million will go toward nine new battery-operated, zero-emission buses, adding four more trips to the Coastal Express bus service between Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Another long-awaited piece of the transportation puzzle is a longer siding at Seacliff, in Ventura County. With engineering support from Union Pacific, Caltrans is looking to start that $20.5 million project in 2021 through SB 1 funding.

Overall, the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program awarded $2.65 billion to 28 projects with the potential to eliminate 31.9 million metric tons of CO2. The largest award went to Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is gearing up for the 2028 Summer Olympics. It received $1.08 billion for new transit in areas extending from Santa Ana to San Fernando Valley in projects totaling $5.78 billion.

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