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Editorial: Caltrans should consider Plan B for Montecito 101

By   /   Friday, January 11th, 2013  /   Comments Off

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With Highway 101 widening plans for the South Coast moving forward at a steady pace, a group of area residents has begun pressing an alternative for a stretch through Montecito.

Called Common Sense 101, the group makes persuasive arguments for area officials to ask Caltrans to carefully review its plan to undertake a radical remaking of the highway between Sheffield Road and Hot Springs Road.

The local group has hired experts to come up with a Plan B solution. And as laid out on its website at www.commonsense101.info, it appears to involve a less intrusive effort that saves time, inconvenience and perhaps $50 million or more.

After speaking with several Plan B proponents, we’re inclined to agree that Caltrans should take a close look at its current plan before it green lights such a big move. One economic reason for thinking through the right solution is agricultural shipments.

The Santa Maria Valley moves tons of agricultural goods up and down the 101 each year. The Common Sense group argues the proposed Caltrans plan would cause lane closures and disruptions that could be harmful for shipping through 2018.

Caltrans has argued that its plan is necessary to eliminate left-hand exits that slow traffic and to install carpool lanes. It says its massive rebuilding is a permanent fix that will stand the test of time. Now it’s true that so far, Caltrans has made impressive efforts in Oxnard and Ventura to rebuild clogged portions of the freeway. And the road widening currently taking place from the Ventura County line to Carpinteria is necessary for commuters as well as commercial traffic and emergency vehicles.

We also object somewhat to Montecito’s constant demand for special treatment. But, after all, there is only one Montecito and the vistas along the 101 are breathtaking. Because Santa Barbara County sales tax dollars are providing a chunk of the cost of the remake, local governments are stakeholders in the planning, which is now in the final stage.

We don’t see the harm in calling a brief time out and letting the experts take a last look at the final stretch of the 101 widening — as long as everybody agrees that eventually, the job has got to be done.

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