In an effort to alleviate an expected influx of traffic along El Colegio Road, UCSB and county officials have commissioned its expansion, with construction set to begin this summer.

The increase from two lanes to four follows the completion of the San Clemente Graduate Student Housing complex, situated along El Colegio Road. The new housing complex includes 314,000 square feet of apartments, with 327 living units in a total of 21 three-story buildings, according to the Campus Design and Facilities Web site. Additionally, the San Clemente parking structure located on Stadium Road will create 785 parking spaces.

San Clemente will open its doors next year, and accept up to 976 graduate and transfer students. According to Shari Hammond, senior planner of Campus Planning and Design, the road construction project, which is intended to facilitate transportation as well as relieve traffic congestion, is expected to take approximately nine months to complete, through three phases that will begin this summer.

“The primary purpose of the project is to transition a portion of El Colegio Road from a two-lane road with center turn pockets to a four-lane road with planted medians, traffic signals and left-turn lanes,” Hammond said.

The expansion of the existing two-lane street is a joint project between the university and Santa Barbara County. Both parties share the area’s jurisdiction along the east-west property line of the university, but each has a different reason for undertaking the construction, Hammond said.

“The County of Santa Barbara has long identified this four-lane El Colegio widening project in their transportation program plans,” Hammond said. “The university has identified it as traffic mitigation for its soon-to-be-opened San Clemente Housing project.”

Mina Nageeb, a third-year electrical engineering major, said while the transition period may challenge commuters, the ultimate outcome of the expansion would be worth the trouble.

“It’s already pretty bad, and will probably get worse with the construction,” Nageeb said. “But it’s a risk we should take, in terms of improvement.”

According to Hammond, the plan for the road expansion began in 2004, through a cooperative Environmental Impact Report between UCSB and Santa Barbara County. The County Planning Commission prepared the Mitigated Negative Declaration for the El Colegio Road Improvements in December 2007, stipulating in the document what both parties were responsible for, once they agreed to undertake the project.

Afterward, the plan was presented to the California Coastal Commission for evaluation. As an initial part of the project, the university has also placed cones and traffic directors along Stadium Road adjacent to the San Clemente structures.