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Montecito residents want left-hand freeway exits to stay

Local leaders are back from a trip to the nation’s capital to try to get funding for the Highway 101 carpool lane project.

In order to get funding, County Supervisors Janet Wolf and Steve Lavagnino along with Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves went to Washington D.C. to meet with legislative leaders, hoping to get money.

“We’re still about $150 million short to complete the project and that’s where we need the help of either the federal or state government. Ideally, both,” said Gregg Hart with the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

Starting in 2017, the carpool lane project will make its way to Montecito, and when it does, the left-hand exits will move right. That might be four years away but the Montecito Association is doing what it can to keep them the way they are.

But not everyone is on board with a portion of the plan.

“Really, all you have to do is truncate the project, build your three lanes,” said Ron Pulice, a member of the Montecito Association.

The Montecito Association wants the extra lane, but that’s it. Caltrans on the other hand is planning to move three left off-ramps and put them on the right, like most exits are.

According to Caltrans, exits on the left have a higher accident rate than right hand ramps. But the Montecito group wants them left alone.

“Nationally they’re not as safe. However in our special corridor here in Santa Barbara, they are actually our safest off ramps,” said Pulice.

In October, the Montecito Association submitted their own plans for the project that would save the ramps.

“Caltrans is doing that work now and fleshing out some of the details involved in those alternatives. They’ll be coming back to the SBCAG board probably in May with the results of that analysis and we’ll proceed forward at that time,” said Hart.

But the Montecito Association isn’t waiting for that decision. They’ve contacted the governor’s office hoping Brown will intervene. No word yet if that will happen.

The Montecito to Carpinteria section won’t start until 2017 and take 10 years to complete. That should give the Santa Barbara Association of Governments a bit more time to get funding for the project.

The group came back empty handed from Washington but told NewsChannel 3 the trip was successful by drawing attention to the project.

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