Southbound commuters frustrated by Highway 101 congestion may soon see some relief, but their northbound counterparts will not be so lucky.
At its meeting yesterday in Irvine, the California Transportation Commission voted in favor of constructing new carpool lanes on the north and southbound sections of Highway 101 between Mussel Shoals in northern Ventura County and the Casitas Pass interchange in southern Santa Barbara County. The commission then voted down a proposal to widen the Highway 101 bridge over the Santa Maria River in north Santa Barbara County.
The money for these projects comes from the $4.5 billion made available by Proposition 1B, a California measure which passed in the November 2006 elections. Every cent of the bond money was dedicated yesterday for carpool lanes, a tunnel and miscellaneous road projects.
Gregg Hart, spokesman for Santa Barbara County Association of Governments – an organization that oversees funding for county transportation projects – said the $151.5 million project to widen the south county stretch of the 101 will not begin until 2011 and will take two and a half years to complete.
Hart said the commute between Santa Barbara County and north Ventura County, which should take an average of 30 minutes, is so congested that it takes double that time during peak traveling hours. Between 16,000 and 20,000 people make the drive between counties each day.
“Those stuck in traffic will be able to look forward to big improvements in their commute,” he said.
SBCAG did not receive the $58.5 million it requested to widen the Highway 101 bridge over the Santa Maria river. Hart said the CTC voted against the funding, deciding instead to allocate it to other freeway projects in Southern California.
Jim Kemp, executive director of SCAG, said the decision not to fund the Santa Maria River Bridge Project is a blow to north county commuters.
“We are very disappointed that the Commission didn’t support the Santa Maria River Bridge Project. … The bridge widening project [would have] eliminated that choke-point and improved safety for thousands of local drivers who travel between San Luis Obispo counties as well as travelers using 101 as an interregional route connecting Northern and Southern California,” Kemp said.