Caltrans interchange project approaches late summer start
By Lea Boyd
Just three months from now an $80 million overhaul of Carpinteria traffic flow decades in the making will commence. Kirsten Ayars, Caltrans public relations consultant, updated the Carpinteria City Council on May 23 on the Linden/Casitas Interchange Project, the third phase of Caltrans’ four-phase Highway 101 widening plans.
“You’re not going to see construction everywhere at first,” said Ayars. Work will begin in late August or early September in the Casitas Pass Road Overpass area. The project will take place in phases and ultimately span much of the city. Components will open as completed, and the full project should be finished in 2020.
Major elements are the widening of Casitas Pass Road and Linden Avenue overpasses, the extension of Via Real across Carpinteria Creek to Casitas Pass Road and continuing to Linden Avenue, a new roundabout at Ogan Road, new highway bridges over Carpinteria Creek and four new sound walls to reduce freeway noise in neighborhoods. Bike and pedestrian improvements are included in most facets of the project.
Most local roadways will remain open during the daytime throughout the project, but over a three-week period in 2018, Linden overpass will be closed to vehicles. Caltrans hopes to keep it open to pedestrians and bicycles and is working to schedule the closure around key events, such as the California Avocado Festival.
The project will replace several on- and off-ramps, which will require closures. Ayars assured the council that at no time will consecutive ramps be closed.
A contractor hasn’t been awarded the project yet, but Security Paving came in with the lowest price and is expected to be awarded the contract in coming week. The same company completed the Milpas to Hot Springs phase of highway widening.
Considerable public outreach is planned to keep locals informed of what traffic conditions to expect and where the next phase of construction will take place. Traffic Solutions will operate a ride share program, and new bus service may be offered between Carpinteria and Goleta.
Carpinteria Creek Bike Path will be closed twice during construction, and prior to those closures, there will be outreach to affected neighborhoods.
Plans to replace the Carpinteria Avenue bridge over Carpinteria Creek are also moving forward, and construction is likely to take place in the midst of the interchange project. The $15 million project to replace the 80-year-old structurally deficient bridge is anticipated for construction in 2018 and 2019. Federal grant monies will cover 88 percent of the new bridge costs, while the City of Carpinteria must shoulder the remaining $1.9 million.
The goal during construction will be to keep one lane open in each direction during the day. Project outcomes include increased safety, improved water flow in the creek, widened sidewalks, added bike lanes and possibly links to the bike path on both side of the bridge.
Friends of the Library inks five-year lease
The City Council voted unanimously to grant Friends of the Carpinteria Library a five-year lease extension on the city-owned Seaside building at 5103 Carpinteria Ave., where the all-volunteer nonprofit operates its used bookstore. The group raises critical funds to keep the neighboring library open and thriving. Due to state and county funding reductions, Friends of the Library’s contributions now account for a quarter of the library operating budget.
Members of the group thanked the council for continuing to support its effort with below market rate rent and with a five-year lease rather than the one-year extensions put in place annually since the bookstore opened there in 2009. “The future of our bookstore looks very bright,” said FOL Board President Gaby Edwards.
Public chimes in on Santa Claus Lane plans: Roundabout and single railroad crossing criticized
By Lea Boyd
Plans for Santa Claus Lane improvements got the third degree by business owners and beach users on the evening of May 19 at Rincon Beach Club, where Santa Barbara County held a public meeting to present preliminary plan details and collect input from stakeholders for a project years in the making and still many months, possibly years, from groundbreaking. Parking, traffic movement and fencing were discussed, but the major sticking points for attendees were a proposed roundabout leading to the southbound freeway onramp and the single railroad crossing limiting beach access.
Funneling beach users to one central crossing would be inconvenient, traffic promoting and potentially more dangerous, members of the public noted. The single proposed crossing is 14 feet wide and has arms on each side that would lower with approaching trains. Four to five-foot fencing is proposed along both sides of the tracks.
County staff explained that its hands are tied when it comes to the number of beach access points. The Public Utilities Commission, which must approve projects in the railroad corridor, is reluctant to allow even one at-grade crossing. “The PUC’s policy is to eliminate at-grade crossings, not create new ones,” said county planner Ryan Cooksey.
Safety is one of the county’s main goals for the project. There was a fatality on the tracks near the beach several years ago, and the beach has grown so popular in recent years that hundreds of beach users cross the tracks en route to the sand on a typical summer day. County staff acknowledged that the project would be a tradeoff: reduced convenience for increased safety.
“It just seems so unfair to the public, at least to me it does,” a woman in the crowd told presenters. She noted she has used the beach for decades and advocated for maintaining its wilder qualities.
“Technically everyone who is crossing those railroad tracks is trespassing,” said County Planner Matt Schneider, adding that the railroad could decide to close access completely at any time. California, he reported, has more injuries and fatalities on train tracks than any other state, and efforts are underway to improve safety throughout rail corridors statewide.
On the east end of Santa Claus Lane, county staff has proposed a roundabout to reduce the speed of cars in front of commercial businesses and at the entrance to Sand Point Road. The feature would help discourage illegal and unsafe U-turns along the lane as well.
Several members of the audience pointed out that a roundabout could make the freeway entrance more dangerous by forcing slow moving vehicles to come out of the curve into oncoming freeway traffic. That issue, staff said, would need to be addressed with Caltrans, which has jurisdiction over the short onramp.
“We’re pretty squeezed there,” said Chris Doolittle of County Public Works. The freeway, railroad tracks and nearby businesses restrict options to improve traffic circulation on that end of the street. “There’s not a lot we can do there, but hopefully we can improve what is there now,” he said.
Plans for Santa Claus Lane also include angled street parking, which would add about 50 spaces along the beach and 50 more in the commercial area. Landscaped bulb-outs and raised crosswalks—“speed tables”—are being considered to slow traffic and improve safety.
A bathroom, showers, trash receptacles and bike racks are planned near the railroad crossing. The county will also work in a drop off zone near the crossing, but staff is still considering how to most effectively design the dropoff for improved convenience without added traffic congestion—another area of concern for members of the audience.
Design is still in its conceptual phase, and county staff plans to visit businesses along the street to collect more input before finalizing plans to begin the permitting process.
Canalino principal honored for strides toward equity
The Anti-Defamation League annually honors educators making impressive efforts to close the achievement gap and address linguistic and cultural equity in their schools. This year, the league selected Canalino Principal Jamie Persoon for the honor, along with Santa Barbara area principals Liz Barnitz and Shawn Carey. Persoon and her colleagues were lauded at a Coral Casino luncheon held on May 10.
Daniel Meisel, co-chair of ADL's Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Civil Rights Committee, noted that when committee members began asking educators to recommend good local early intervention programs, multiple sources told them to take a look at what Persoon was doing at Canalino. “We were impressed by her and her team's thoughtful and efficient approach to assessing and addressing students' academic and social needs,” said Meisel. “Our committee's educators tell me it is a wonderful combination of best practices, and the early results appear to back that up.”
Persoon said that connecting with each of the school’s 530 students and their families is critical to Canalino’s efforts to address the whole child. Everyone, from the teachers to the custodians, works to create a safe, warm, nurturing learning environment for students. “When we, as a system, acknowledge bias, remove barriers, provide access, and demonstrate our commitment to student support by allocating resources accordingly, we have communicated by word and deed to that child that we have every confidence that she can achieve at high levels,” Persoon said. “Given that message, the child will dedicate herself to the task at hand, feeling the safety and support around her.”
Watts named Special Olympian of the Year
Ben Watts was singled out at the Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table annual awards ceremony on May 18. The former Carpinteria High School athlete and current basketball and floor hockey player won the Mayor’s Trophy, the award for top area Special Olympic Athlete of the Year. His coaches commended his resolve to get better, commitment to sport and cooperativeness as reasons for nominating. Watts was also recognized that the May 19 Special Olympics Inspire Greatness Luncheon for the same award.
Following high school, where Watts played both football and track, he has continued to volunteer with Warrior athletic teams. He works at Carl’s Jr. and is a talented artist in the form of sketching superheroes.
Bike Night makes cycling superstars
Photos by Robin Karlsson
Dozens of empowered young cyclists took to the pavement on the evening of May 20 armed with new skills and well adjusted wheels. Bike Night, a free CycleMAYnia event, drew droves to Aliso School where bike mechanics, loaner bikes and cycling drills helped build two-wheeling confidence.
It’s a pool party
Photos by Robin Karlsson
In celebration of the summer season and 25 years of existence, the Carpinteria Community Pool hosted a party on the evening of May 20. Supporters and staff turned out in rarely seen outfits—pants and shirts rather than swimwear—to raise fun and funds for the pool’s youth programs.