First Look at the San Ysidro Roundabout

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   October 10, 2019
An aerial view of the San Ysidro Road intersection at North Jameson Lane; the intersection is slated for a roundabout project as part of the Highway 101 widening

Next week, Santa Barbara County’s Deputy Director of Transportation Chris Sneddon will take part in the Coast Village Association’s Transportation and Traffic Symposium to unveil the first set of renderings for the roundabout slated at San Ysidro Road and North Jameson Lane. The symposium, set to take place at Montecito Inn, will touch on various traffic projects slated to impact Montecito, including the 101 expansion, parallel projects including the roundabouts and bridge widening at Los Patos, and improvements to Coast Village Road and Coast Village Circle. Presentations will be given by SBCAG, Caltrans, the City of Santa Barbara, the County, and MTD.

Sneddon gave us a first look at the plans for the San Ysidro Roundabout, which has been in the works for the last several years as part of a trio of parallel projects to improve local traffic in conjunction with the widening of Highway 101. Five years ago, Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) directed staff to move forward on these projects: a roundabout at Olive Mill and Coast Village Road, mitigation of the railroad bridge at the Cabrillo Blvd underpass, and assessment of traffic solutions at the San Ysidro Road freeway entrances/exits. Based on information gleaned following that board direction, the new roundabout at San Ysidro Road was deemed necessary after it was determined that the intersection at San Ysidro and North Jameson fell short on meeting the level of service required by the County. “It operates at a level of service of ‘F’ multiple times per day,” Sneddon said, adding that the Montecito Community Plan, which was completed in 1992, identified the intersection as problematic. “They recognized back then that there was an issue with this intersection, and County policies dictate that if an intersection is at a ‘C, D, or F,’ it needs to be worked on,” he said. 

An analysis performed by Kittelson & Associates, which was released in 2017, outlined a number of alternatives for both sides of the San Ysidro Road bridge, including roundabouts at both intersections on San Ysidro (one near the Miramar and one at North Jameson), as well as alternatives showing various combinations of all-way stops, traffic lights, and roundabouts. The recommendation of the evaluators was a combination of a roundabout at the north intersection and all-way-stop control at the south intersection, as that combination is the least impactful and most cost effective. 

According to County reps, this configuration meets County and Montecito Community Plan level of service requirements, addresses potential backups on the freeway off-ramps, provides continuity to the regional frontage road system with Olive Mill and Coast Village Road, minimizes footprint and impacts, and improves pedestrian and bicycle access through the interchange. “The issues that many nearby residents have with this project – which include pedestrian safety and speed of traffic – are going to be mitigated, not exacerbated, with this project,” Sneddon said. 

“The current intersection is an expanse of asphalt,” Sneddon said, pointing out how the intersection is extremely unsafe for pedestrians, as it clumsily includes traffic from North Jameson, San Ysidro, the northbound entrance and exit of Highway 101. The new roundabout ties each flow of traffic into a single-lane roundabout, and breaks up the asphalt with discreet decorative elements appropriate for the semi-rural nature of Montecito. 

“With this project we are mitigating a freeway frontage road that is experiencing congestion, but balancing the need to get traffic through a semi-rural area,” Sneddon said. “It’s a huge leap forward in making it a rural community intersection. Instead of seeing a huge paved area, you’re going to see plantings that make it feel like a neighborhood lane.” 

The project includes pedestrian access on every leg of the intersection, including crosswalks that connect with paved walkways through the medians or refuge areas, breaking up the expanse of asphalt into smaller sections for pedestrians to safely cross. The single lane roundabout also promotes bicycle accessibility, giving enough space for bicycles to traverse the lane, or bicyclists can get off their bikes and walk in the pedestrian areas. 

“Part of this project is educating drivers to slow down in the roundabout,” Sneddon said, adding that the custom, oblong design of the roundabout causes drivers to have to slow to 25 mph. “The slower speeds have major benefits to Montecito residents, as drivers will no longer be idling in their vehicles. This is a direct benefit to the adjacent neighborhood,” Sneddon said. The roundabout fits in the public right-of-way, and will be heavily landscaped with drought tolerant plantings. The project is also expected to improve storm water runoff. 

Sneddon says that lumping the project into the freeway widening – along with the roundabout at Los Patos and Cabrillo Blvd, and the roundabout at Coast Village Road and Olive Mill – allows for successful funding of the improvements. “If it wasn’t included in the freeway widening, then we wouldn’t be able to fund it,” he said, adding that it will likely be built between 2023-2027, prior to the 101 widening through Montecito, although exact staging and timing has yet to be determined. The funding is secured through the environmental and permitting phases of the project through Senate Bill 1; the County will apply for continued funding in the spring of 2020. Ongoing maintenance of the roundabout once it’s completed is to-be-determined, as it will be in both the County and Caltrans’ right-of-way. 

“These parallel projects are not tied to the freeway project to be intended as a ‘through traveler’ benefit. This project has always been for the benefit of locals,” Sneddon said. He explained that the traffic issues on the freeway have further exacerbated the congestion on North Jameson, directly affecting the intersection at San Ysidro Road. “These are narrow, residential roads, that were never intended to have this type of heavy traffic. Our intention with these projects, as well as the highway widening, is to keep the type of traffic on the road it should be on.” 

The preliminary engineering design of the roundabout is complete, with the preliminary landscaping plan currently in the works. The Design Working Group, which includes two members of MBAR and two MPC commissioners, will review the project next, followed by the full board of MBAR and MPC, which is expected in the coming months. “There will be many opportunities for public input,” he said, adding that the County will conduct public outreach, including stops at the Montecito Association Land Use Committee, throughout the process. Sneddon says the design of the project is sensitive to the aesthetic of Montecito. “The design is custom for this neighborhood, and for the feel of Montecito,” he said.

The Coast Village Association’s Transportation and Traffic Symposium is on Wednesday, October 16, from 8 am to 10:30 am at the Montecito Inn Board Room. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to coastvillagesb@gmail.com. 

To learn more about the San Ysidro Road roundabout, call (805) 452-0008 or email SYroundabout@cosbpw.net.

 

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