Meet the Head Honcho for 101 Freeway Widening Project

By Nick Schou   |   December 31, 2020

Assuming that Montecito makes it through the next few years without any major wildfires, floods, mudslides, earthquakes, or tsunamis (okay, so that last potential natural disaster seems about as likely as a meteor strike), then the biggest story that will affect everyone in town for the foreseeable future is the 101 Freeway widening project.

With that in mind, the Montecito Journal has already begun providing regular updates on ramp closures and other traffic-related issues. But to better understand the many complex layers of planning, preparation, and oversight that go into this mammoth undertaking, the Journal is also committed to interviewing as many of the key players in the project as possible.

101 Freeway Widening Project Head Honcho Fred Luna

For this, the inaugural installation of what will be a series of profiles of the main characters involved in the project, we spoke with Fred Luna, director of project delivery and construction for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. According to Marjie Kirn, executive director of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, Luna, whose nickname is “The Machine,” boasts a combination of experience and leadership capabilities that makes him an ideal Highway 101 corridor manager.

“With thirty years of public and private professional experience, Fred has been effective at developing solutions to complex project management situations that involve coordination among multiple state, federal, and local governments while also balancing the needs of various construction teams and the public,” Kirn said. “Fred has a calm demeanor and is a true team player who is committed to always get the job done.”

Q: What is your job title and basic job description, and what is your key role in the 101 widening project?

A: I am the Director of Project Delivery and Construction for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG). I manage all SBCAG regional projects that are supported by Measure A, our local transportation sales tax, and other funding sources. I work closely with Caltrans and our local city and county partners on design, permitting, and construction. This includes the Highway 101: Carpinteria to Santa Barbara project where SBCAG has an active role and an in-depth partnership with Caltrans.

Can you tell us a bit about your background and other projects you’ve worked on in the past?

After graduating from Cal Poly with a civil engineering degree, I worked in transportation for an international consulting firm. Transportation and infrastructure improvement projects have been my focus for the last 30 years, with 20 years managing SBCAG’s regional program with an emphasis on the Highway 101 corridor. A few key projects include Highway 101 between Linden and Casitas Pass, Milpas to Hot Springs, and Ventura to Carpinteria.

What is the most exciting work going on in the 101 project?

I enjoy working on projects that have a direct safety benefit for people. The creation of righthand ramps at the Sheffield Drive Interchange will be a significant change from people entering and exiting the freeway from the fast lane. When you drive by, you can already see progress. It is interesting to see new bridges, walls, and ramps go into an area that has had issues for years.

So what don’t people know about the project that they should know?

Building these projects requires technical experience and a highly collaborative team. We work hard to make these projects better through partnerships with Caltrans, the County of Santa Barbara, and all the local governments along the South Coast. The amount of technical expertise and what is accomplished is impressive. There are more than 100 team members working to make this area safer, reduce traffic congestion, strategize ways to earn state and federal grants, protect environmentally sensitive areas, and do it all with the least amount of impact to neighbors and people using the road during construction.

 

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