Aesthetics don’t necessarily equate to function. Just because something looks nice it doesn’t mean that it’ll actually work or that the problems of the past will magically go away.
Take the recently begun work on the 101 Freeway stretching from Carpinteria to the Milpas Street exit, for example. Quite an aggressive endeavor, but will it actually solve anything in the way of reducing the traffic jams along that narrow piece of road?
As it currently stands, this stretch of road goes from a three-lane highway just south of Carpinteria down to two lanes through Carpinteria, Summerland and Montecito then back to three lanes again in Santa Barbara just past Milpas Street.
Anybody who knows even the most basic physics of flow can tell you that the lower the pressure, the higher the velocity of flow; the higher the pressure, the lower the velocity of flow. It’s basic knowledge that even applies to traffic flow.
But even with this basic knowledge of flow, Caltrans is not going to widen the freeway through the Montecito section, even though this would fix all the traffic problems of the area due to traffic buildup during crucial hours.
All that’s going to be done with our taxpayer dollars going into this project is to smooth the asphalt, install new reflectors, paint new stripes, plant new vegetation and generally clean up the freeway. Spruce it up a bit for the sake of aesthetics.
This project will go on for a minimum of two years and it will take systematic closures of on and off ramps and lanes of traffic. This project will also cost a heck of a lot of money.
And nowhere in this plan has there been any mention of widening the freeways through the problem areas.
So then why is this major project not about widening the freeway where all of the traffic-flow problems originate? The answer is very simple: Montecito residents.
This privileged group of wealthy folks has fought any form of freeway widening, supposedly based on environmental concern and a skewed belief that widening the freeway will increase traffic in the area, thus increasing noise and congestion.
But upon further research into the matter there’s no environmental concern, just a bunch of wealthy folks that don’t want to play along by the rules that everybody else has to.
In all actuality, it only comes down to overcoming common sense with the power of wealth. Common sense would have it that if you widen the freeway you’d reduce the traffic and a commute would thus be easier. You’d also put all those tax dollars to use at actually fixing a problem, not making it prettier.
Opponents of freeway widening also claim that said widening would cost more taxpayer dollars than the current project is budgeted for: another misconception.
If allowed to widen the freeway, Caltrans could do it in a non-invasive manner that would cause very little offset or encroachment and would benefit the current traffic situation.
But even with every common sense argument available, the Montecito contingent is still against anything logical that can actually benefit traffic transit through that area.
All it takes is some rookie driver move on that two-lane stretch and traffic backs up for miles as far as the eye can see. It just happened last Friday, as it has many times before and will undoubtedly happen again. It usually does on my way home after a long day of work and it’s slowly starting to piss me off.
There has been talk of widening the 101 Freeway along the Montecito stretch, but that effort won’t happen until the year 2022. That’s just unacceptable. And it’s all because of a little enclave between the Sheffield and Coast Village exits that doesn’t even extend four miles. Screw ’em and widen the damned thing now! It would only make sense.
Henry Sarria is an Isla Vista resident and a frequent contributor to the Daily Nexus.