Upcoming Road Projects

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   July 12, 2022

At this month’s Montecito Association Land Use Committee meeting earlier this week, reps from several agencies shared their upcoming schedules related to road construction work in Montecito. 

Last week bids were opened on the sewer main relocation at Olive Mill and San Ysidro, which is preliminary work in anticipation of the two roundabouts that are going to be built in those locations. According to Montecito Sanitary District GM Bradley Rahrer, the construction will take two months, beginning in August. Flaggers will be navigating traffic in the area, and construction will only take place from 9 am – 3 pm at Olive Mill/North Jameson and 9 am – 2:30 pm at San Ysidro/North Jameson, to avoid congestion related to school drop-off and pick-up. Rahrer also reported on a sewer main relocation at Oak Creek, which will need to be completed by February 2023 in anticipation of the proposed freeway widening. 

Construction is slated to begin on the Olive Mill Roundabout in October of this year. The lead agency on the project is now Caltrans, as the project is related to the highway widening. Kirsten Ayars, a rep for the Highway 101 HOV project, reported last week at Montecito Planning Commission that planners are determining the best way to stage the freeway project and the two roundabouts at Olive Mill and San Ysidro roads. More detailed information will be released in August. Preliminary work on the San Ysidro roundabout will begin in January 2023, as Montecito Water District replaces a water main in the area. The roundabout project at Los Patos Way and Cabrillo Blvd is slated to begin in early 2023.

Other local projects include a water main replacement at Buena Vista, paving on various roads, enhanced crosswalk signals on San Ysidro Road, continuation of the Walk Montecito project, and beautification of the triangle in front of Casa Dorinda. Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor was at the meeting and reported that all agencies have kept his organization well informed of construction, so evacuation plans can be altered accordingly in case of an emergency. Next month the Land Use Committee will hear from Caltrans, who will give their timeframes for upcoming projects. 

The discussion at Land Use turned to last week’s lively MPC hearing, in which the Commissioners asked difficult and complicated questions to reps of the Highway 101 widening project. The second hearing in a series of three conceptual reviews at MPC, the meeting was to hear Commissioner comments and concerns in preparation for a Santa Barbara County Planning Commission hearing in the fall. MPC is in an advisory role for this project, as the SBPC is the decision maker; appeals will go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. 

The Montecito segment of the project (called 4D) includes widening 1.4 miles of both directions of the freeway, from just before the Romero Creek bridge to Olive Mill Road. The project will add a third, part-time High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane that will be in effect on weekdays from 6 am to 9 am, and 3 pm to 6 pm, and includes replacing the existing roadway pavement with 40-year concrete pavement; removal of 158 oak trees (to be replaced at a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio) and 20 other native trees (to be replaced at a 1:1 ratio); installation of median barriers, guardrails, fencing, retaining walls, and new landscaping; reconstruction of the freeway bridges over Cabrillo Boulevard plus a new southbound on-ramp; and replacement of the bridges over Romero Creek, San Ysidro Creek, and Oak Creek. Earlier this year, the project’s proposed sound walls were removed after analysis showed an increase in water rise during a 200-year flood event. The flood risk was analyzed using Recovery Mapping that was adopted by the County in response to the 1/9 Debris Flow, which includes data from FEMA. 

Planning Commissioners took issue with the fact that the analysis that ruled out the sound walls was gleaned from multiple data sources, some of which they felt was outdated as they did not take into effect new resiliency measures including larger (or new) debris basins, creek nets, and enhanced bridges. There is also a discrepancy in which standards are used: the sound walls are held to a 200-year standard, but other portions of the project are being built to 100-year flood event standards, according to former Commissioner Jack Overall, who reported on the hearing to the Land Use Committee.

Admittedly, project planners are trying to capitalize on state funding opportunities which need to be concluded by December of this year. Construction on the project is slated to begin in March, although new issues have arisen including some residents’ desire to remove the southbound freeway entrance at Posilipo Lane, which is being discussed and analyzed by the project team. 

During public comment, members of the public lamented about the loss of the sound walls and the need for a larger flood control project from the highway to the beach. Commissioners asked project reps to come back with consolidated information related to the analysis of the flood risk, as well as a better explanation of terms related to the project. Ayars reported that the footings used for the retaining walls on the project can accommodate the weight of sound walls, in case standards change and they can be built in the future. In place of the sound walls, a black coated chain link fencing, planted with vines and landscaping, is proposed; Caltrans is agreeable to providing landscape maintenance for five years after the project is built. 

The Montecito Association Board of Directors will meet next Tuesday, July 12. 


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