Frustrated motorists brought their shovels and hard hats to Carpinteria City Hall to encourage 101 in Motion to get moving Wednesday night.
Members of the public and elected officials, along with representatives from Caltrans and the Santa Barbara County Association of Government (SBCAG), attended the public workshop on the group’s future goals. Some brought shovels to emphasize to the project managers that they want construction of new lanes to begin immediately. The workshop included a list of the group’s priorities and proposed solutions as well as comment cards for members of the public to provide feedback. The project, 101 in Motion, is sponsored by SBCAG to address traffic and safety issues on Highway 101.
Bob Bramen, 101 in Motion project team manager, said the group is looking for a comprehensive list of possible solutions offered by the public.
“There’s no single answer,” Bramen said. “It’s going to require a package of solutions to deal with the complexity of the problem.”
Bramen identified several factors that contribute to traffic congestion on the 101. Among the problems listed were the prevalence of single-occupancy vehicles during peak hours, the lack of easy surface street alternatives and an increase in commuting.
“People are commuting to their jobs because they can’t afford to live where they work,” Bramen said. “An increase in population means the problem’s only going to get bigger.”
Some solutions offered in the past include additional lanes, changes to inefficient onramps and offramps and continuing streets that run parallel to the freeway so there are alternate routes. The construction of a whole new freeway that bypasses Santa Barbara and additional transit options such as local and express buses, rail and high-speed ferries have also been considered.
One problem identified by the group is the issue of traffic bottlenecking at places where the freeway goes from three lanes down to two. In 1993, Caltrans proposed to widen the freeway south of Milpas Street, but the project was dropped due to public opposition. In 2003, SBCAG approved the formation of 101 in Motion.
“The project focus area is the 27 miles from the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line to Winchester Canyon,” Bramen said.
Lisa Levy-Buch of 101 in Motion said the purpose of the workshop is to get more ideas from community members on potential solutions. Of the people who filled out comment cards prior to the meeting, Levy-Buch said the majority listed more transportation options, reducing demand for the freeway and decreasing traffic delays as their top priorities.
Dennis Story, chair of CoastalRailNow.org, said a commuter rail system is the most viable alternative to using the freeway. Amtrak is not convenient for commuters who would use high-speed trains at specific hours of the day.
“It’s sad that people sit in traffic and stare at the rail next to the highway and wonder why there isn’t a train that serves them,” Story said.
Among the other solutions proposed at the workshop were a system of alerting drivers to freeway conditions prior to the onramp and a bikepath that runs parallel to the railroad. One member of the audience drew laughter by suggesting higher gasoline prices.
“The problem is how to move people through the corridor, not how to move cars through the corridor,” Carpinteria resident Ken Conger said. “By adding lanes to the freeway you’re only allowing more cars to move through, not necessarily more people. You’ll end up with the same problem on a larger scale.”