There they go again.
The no-growth crowd is crowing about a newly-released environmental impact report that shows a handful of intersections on Highway 101 will experience slowdowns after the highway is widened between Carpinteria and Montecito.
But to anybody who’s been following the buzzing of political gadflies around the estimated $428 million project, the complaints are nothing more than a self-fulfilling prophesy.
The Montecito crowd has delayed and delayed the inevitable widening of Highway 101 for a 7-mile stretch through Carp and the Santa Barbara city line, wasting millions of dollars in commuter time, causing wrecks and, by the way, drastically increasing air pollution during rush hours.
Having held up construction for decades while gridlock got worse and worse, they’re now complaining about the fact that even after spending $400 million or so, the problem won’t be completely solved.
Let’s put the blame where it belongs. First, the Montecito folks who insisted on years of delays are to blame because had the highway been widened years ago, traffic would have flowed smoothly until now.
Second, voters and elected officials in Santa Barbara County have caused the traffic mess because they refuse to permit enough housing. That means thousands of commuters are on the road every day between their homes in Ventura County and the South Coast, where the jobs are.
The bottom line is that Highway 101 is so clogged right now that the widening project in its current form can only relieve a portion of the congestion. But that’s no reason to quit or give up. Let’s get the project moving forward and eliminate the left exits that have bedeviled drivers for decades.
Ultimately it will take alternatives — more carpools, more bus options and definitely better rail connections — to take up more and more of the slack.
But the best alternative by far for now is simply to move some dirt and hope that incoming Congressman Salud Carbajal can persuade the feds to move the 101 widening to the top of the list for new infrastructure projects, if that opportunity arises in the new Congress.
Home for the holidays
Amid the drama of a world driven by Trump tweets and a news cycle that hasn’t lost any of the election-year intensity, it’s important to recognize that the holiday season is upon us.
Maybe amid the shopping frenzy and the rush to finish projects by yearend, it’s worth taking a time out to appreciate friends, family, work colleagues and the wonderful environment we share on the Central Coast.
We’re very fortunate to be stewards of terrific communities that are close-knit but also welcoming of strangers — and fabulous places to live, work and play.
Take a few minutes to reflect on this — it will make you calmer and stronger.