As part of a series of countywide highway improvement projects, Caltrans is looking to decrease the possibility of accidents on State Route 217 by installing concrete dividers between its northbound and southbound lanes.

Last week, workers finished paving the roughly seven-foot-wide median in preparation to install concrete barriers today, Donna Carpenter of the Caltrans Public Information Office said. The $1.3 million project, slated for completion in late December or early 2006, stretches for 1.3 miles, beginning at the UCSB campus main entrance.

“It’s a safety project to reduce potential for cross-median accidents,” Carpenter said. “We’re doing that on a lot of the high speed facilities that don’t have medians now.”

Caltrans, which began the project in September, is also paving the highway’s shoulders and upgrading the surrounding landscaping, she said.

Colin Jones of Caltrans said concrete barriers are not typically built on two-lane highways, but will be in the case of SR 217 because the road merges from four lanes to two near Goleta Beach.

Carpenter said Caltrans is currently working on similar projects along Highway 101 from the Ventura County line to northern Santa Barbara County.

“They’re doing them in several locations,” Carpenter said. “They’re trying to close in the gaps where there aren’t any median barriers.”

Caltrans recently completed a two-mile median barrier installation from the Ventura County line to Carpinteria, Carpenter said. It is also currently working on a three-mile project just north of Gaviota and another two-mile project beginning south of Buellton and stretching north. Carpenter said Caltrans expects the Gaviota project to be done by December and Buellton project to be finished by spring 2006.