Freeway Projects Accelerated

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   June 3, 2021
Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins announced that $50 million of funding had been reallocated in order to accelerate the Montecito portion of the highway

At a kick-off celebration on May 24, community leaders and stakeholders gathered under the Santa Claus Lane underpass of Highway 101 to mark the next phase of the freeway widening, called the Padaro Project, which includes the construction of seven- and-a-half miles of congestion-relief work between Carpinteria and Summerland. The project cost is approximately $200 million, and construction will begin on June 6. 

This project is the third of five segments under construction as part of the Highway 101: Carpinteria to Santa Barbara Project that will add peak-period carpool lanes, replace creek bridges, and improve safety between Carpinteria and Santa Barbara. Speaking at the well-attended ceremony were Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) Executive Director Marjorie Kirn, First District Supervisor and Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) Vice Chair Das Williams, California Transportation Commission chair Hilary Norton, Congressman Salud Carbajal, and Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins.

“This project is enormously important if we are going to reduce the number of cars on the freeway,” said Williams, explaining that the project’s “Lane & Train” component is a new separated bikeway that will connect Santa Claus Lane and Carpinteria Avenue near the salt marsh.

“This is the culmination of 20-plus years of community conversations. The project will connect our community more, increase flood control capacity, and increase drainage.”

The project also includes three new sound walls, and contractors will take advantage of new paving techniques that will reduce sound generated on the freeway. 

The ceremony also featured the unveiling of a Blue Star Memorial Highway sign by Carbajal, who was surrounded by veterans, Blue Star Mothers of America, the Channel Islands Garden Club, and reps from the Carpinteria Valley Historical Museum. Carbajal explained that in 1930, the local Boy Scout troop planted oak trees and laid plaques for World War I Veterans.

Over the years, many of the trees perished and the plaques went missing; the Blue Star Memorial Highway designation will add 108 new oak trees grown from the acorns of the original oaks from nearly 100 years ago, as well as a specially designed median safety barrier with oak leaves and blue star plaques, and feature new signs denoting the area for drivers.

“I could not be prouder of this designation,” Carbajal said.

Also announced at the event: Caltrans has reallocated roughly $50 million to accelerate improvements to the freeway in Montecito between San Ysidro Road and Olive Mill Road, Gubbins announced.

The now accelerated project, which is expected to begin in Fall 2022 instead of 2023, was prioritized in order to meet the timing of the two frontage road roundabouts at San Ysidro Road/North Jameson and Olive Mill/Coast Village. According to project reps, synchronizing the projects enables work to occur without closing successive ramps, which has been a significant concern by members of the public and neighbors.

The freeway project in the Montecito area includes new peak-period carpool lanes that will tie into lanes planned in the Montecito and Santa Barbara segments. Updated freeway on- and off-ramps and new auxiliary lanes, or lanes that connect on- and off-ramps, will be built in this area, and there are three proposed sound walls.

One of the most discussed portions of the project includes the reconstruction of the Hot Springs/Cabrillo Blvd interchange, which includes (another) roundabout and the replacement of the left side ramps with right side ramps. The interchange will also bring back the southbound onramp at Cabrillo Blvd, which many residents and Coast Village Road business owners are eager to see.

The Montecito portion of the project is in the local permitting process, expected to occur later this spring and summer.

“Our project team has been diligently working to listen to our community and deliver these needed congestion-relief improvements as soon as possible,” said Kirn. 

In Fall 2022, SBCAG and Caltrans will apply for state funding for the remaining segments in Montecito and Santa Barbara to complete construction in the corridor. The California Transportation Commission will vote on SB1 funding awards in 2023. California Transportation Commission Chair Norton said on Monday: “The California Transportation Commission’s work here is not done.” 

Construction on the Padaro segment will begin on the night of June 6. Drivers can expect to see initial safety fencing, grading, safety barriers to shift lanes, and work to build up outside shoulders. Then lanes will be shifted, and construction will focus on the median area of US 101. 

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