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Widening Highway 101 will reduce traffic woes

By and   /   Friday, November 18th, 2016  /   Comments Off on Widening Highway 101 will reduce traffic woes

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Traffic backs up daily on Highway 101 through Montecito.

Traffic backs up daily on Highway 101 through Montecito.

Construction on Highway 101 from Casitas Pass Road to Cabrillo Boulevard through Montecito is causing havoc for commuters trying to navigate from Ventura into Santa Barbara.

The project will continue into 2020 as Caltrans-funded upgrades to the 101 are incorporated into widening for high occupancy vehicle lanes through a transportation corridor that’s absolutely crucial to commerce in our region. A Nov. 17 item on the agenda for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments would increase the total cost of the project by $25 million.

At the end of the project, bridges and overpasses on a crucial 7-mile stretch of Highway 101 will be rebuilt, left entrances and exits will be eliminated and drivers will get a respite — for perhaps a decade if we are lucky.

However, we’ve already seen that the massive widening that took place in Ventura County just 15 years ago has reached several choke points. For example, the widening and elimination of the left lane flyover at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 1 in Oxnard has now been overtaken by increased cross-county traffic and the burgeoning growth at the RiverPark housing and retail center.

In Camarillo, the widening of Highway 101 to three lanes and the reworking of overpasses has not created enough capacity to handle rush hour traffic — a problem in both directions.

Building more highway lanes buys years and perhaps a decade or more but traffic woes will be with us. That is no reason to stop building — or looking for creative solutions.

Stunningly, voters turned down a plan to further improve the 101 transportation corridor in Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties on Nov. 8. So the problems will get worse.

The bottom line is that for all the inconvenience, the 101 project in South Santa Barbara County will vastly improve the capacity of the highway to handle commuter and tourist traffic that’s clearly overwhelmed the current highway.  Construction delays will be brutal but hopefully we don’t return to late 19th century traffic patterns when wagons could ford the Ventura River only when the riverbed was dry enough.

For an increasing number of commuters, rail is the better option and it allows riders to connect via Wi-Fi and social media with homes and offices.

But, for now, fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Give back to your community

We stopped in on the 2nd annual National Philanthropy Day awards in San Luis Obispo on Nov. 15 and were reminded that the season for giving is upon us.

In honoring Bert and Candee Forbes, two of the most successful tech entrepreneurs in the region, SLO County joined a celebration followed shortly by the combined Ventura and Santa Barbara Philanthropy Day honors. Both programs are put on by chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

On Nov. 21, Montecito Bank & Trust will host its annual Community Dividends program where the bank, owned by Mike Towbes, distributes $1 million to more than 100 area nonprofits.

Philanthropy is more than giving. It’s volunteering to lend a hand, it’s serving on a nonprofit board or helping out in myriad other ways.

It’s a great way to appreciate what we have. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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