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101 traffic upgrade goes before the public

By   /   Friday, July 10th, 2009  /   Comments Off on 101 traffic upgrade goes before the public

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One of the unintended consequences of the current economic meltdown may be public acceptance for widening Highway 101 through the Montecito area of Santa Barbara County.

Caltrans, Santa Barbara city and county, the city of Carpineria and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments all have lined up in support of the plan to put a third lane, ostensibly an HOV lane, all the way from Bailard Avenue in Carpenteria to the site of the current Highway 101 widening near Sycamore Creek inside the Santa Barbara city limits.

Public comments were slated for hearings on July 7 and July 8 at various locations across the impacted area.

By starting with high-occupancy vehicle lanes, governments can act green by encouraging carpooling and ride sharing, and the lanes theoretically have less impact on traffic counts than a full-on road widening.

But in practice, the building of the HOV lanes through Montecito will close the missing link in previously announced highway widening projects that include:

• The current widening of Highway 101 from the Milpas overpass to the Hot Springs

exit, well under way and moving forward despite the budget mess in Sacramento because it is funded heavily with local sales tax dollars.

• HOV lanes from the Ventura County line to Carpinteria, currently on the CalTrans drawing board.

Funding for many of these projects will depend on the state resolving its mammoth budget problems. Closing the Carpinteria-Montecito gap in the road widening plan will be a huge productivity gain for the region, speed the flow of commerce between Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and add new capacity to the region’s ability to attract tourists.

This is a potential game-changer for commerce in the region, and we encourage businesses to raise their voices in support of this measure.

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