January 29, 2023
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Judge orders Highway 101 widening project EIR to be redrafted


Traffic backs up daily on Highway 101 through Montecito.

Traffic backs up daily on Highway 101 through Montecito.

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge ruled that part of the Highway 101 Widening Project Environmental Impact Report needs to be recalculated, but the decision is not expected to significantly delay the project.

The estimated $428 million fourth stage of the undertaking includes adding high occupancy vehicle lanes in both directions through the 10.3-mile stretch between Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. The final phase is expected to take about 10 years and is slated to commence in 2018.

Additional drivers would cause excessive congestion at nine intersections and cumulatively impact 15 intersections from Carpinteria to Goleta, according to Caltrans traffic studies.

Yet, the EIR did not cite any significant impacts from the project.

“It categorically ignored potentially significant intersection impacts and designated them ‘tradeoffs’ for project benefits,” Judge Thomas Anderle wrote in his ruling.

The section in question has to be redrafted and go through a 45-day public comment period before it goes back to Anderle. That process will likely take place concurrently with an estimated yearlong design analysis.

“We are pleased that the judge’s direction is narrowly focused and that the court supported the vast majority of the EIR for this project,” Caltrans said in a prepared statement.

The court’s deliberation came at the behest of a lawsuit filed by an environmental nonprofit, the Transportation Futures Committee, headed by Marc Chytilo.

Many in the tri-county region are eagerly awaiting the project’s completion as the congested corridor has put a hamper on business.

The San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency is working with Amtrak to retime a train to offset some of the traffic caused by some 15,000 commuters traveling from Ventura to Santa Barbara daily. Amtrak would retime one of its existing routes to leave Ventura before 8 a.m. and return around 6 p.m. But the timetable has been pushed back from spring to summer of 2016.

Two professors out of CSU Northridge suggest implementing a variable toll. It’s a strategy that has worked in London, Singapore and Stockholm. Drivers would pay a higher toll during peak hours and theoretically drive less during those times.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.