CARPINTERIA, Calif. - What was first talked about around 25 years ago has become a reality in Carpinteria with the completion of two new bridge and ramp projects. It's part of a larger freeway widening plan for U.S. Highway 101 in the very heavily used coastal corridor.
The bridges have been completely replaced at Linden Avenue and Casitas Pass Road.
There are many other improvements that were included in the project. Many came from numerous community meetings.
Each bridge has additional vehicle lanes, along with bike lanes that connect to a larger city bicycle network for safe riding to downtown, the beach and south to the Rincon. There, a Class One bike lake provides a safe route to Ventura.
The bridge improvements were necessary to complete the freeway expansion from two lanes in each direction to three lanes in each direction. The old bridges were outdated and did not provide the room to widen the highway.
The project also includes more signal lights in a city that, for years, only had three signalized intersections. Now there are eight locations for lights. They will be flashing red for the next week, then go into their normal cycle.
The small town character to a big city project was important for residents. Designers are still landscaping. That will include many trees, native plants and greenery to soften the hardscape that comes with such a design.
It will also modify the "L.A. look" which longtime local residents said they did not want to see if possible with the completed project. It also includes many walls to keep the 24-hour vehicle sound track toned down.
The Casitas Pass bridge has room for a center parkway that will have palm trees for a welcoming overcrossing into the downtown corridor.
The work was completed five months ahead of schedule.
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Santa Barbara County Supervisors Gregg Hart and Das Williams were joined by Carpinteria Mayor Wade Nomura and CalTrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins to announce the finished bridge and ramp work. They held a presentation with COVID-19 spacing.
Williams said construction created challenges for residents, with all the crews, heavy equipment, detours and dust. "You are not alone," he said as a resident sharing their discomfort. Looking back he hopes they see "it's for the greater good."
Nomura says, "Carpinteria Avenue has been impacted tremendously through and before the construction project." Opening Via Real from Casitas Pass Road to Linden, "will substantially reduce the amount of congestion on Carpinteria Ave."
He says the old route on Via Real had many speeding cars getting to the freeway. The new design, "will be more leisurely," he said.
The area has larger sidewalks, along with several new light poles on the bridge, bike paths and ramps. "We can walk day and night and feel safe," said Nomura.
Williams agreed, "You don't need a car to go three blocks."
Crews will still be in the area for weeks adding landscaping and monitoring the traffic, bike and pedestrian flow.
Christine Bourgeois with SB Bike says the bicycle safety improvements were impressive. "When there was just a narrow bridge it was nerve wracking. So I am pretty excited to see there are other options to this project that were included for bicyclists and pedestrians." As an education director, she often works with kids taking them from the beach side of town to the school nearby. The old bridge was tight and dangerous.
Eventually work will also be done along Santa Claus Lane to Carpinteria Avenue to avoid having riders use the freeway for that section into the City of Carpinteria. On the other end, she looks forward to the bike bridge for riders around Bates Road where they will also have a route that is no longer on the busy highway.
Funding has come from many sources over the years. Hart said there was foresight from area voters. "Passing Measure A, a decade ago to increase our local sales tax to provide the local dollars to match the state dollars," was vital. He also noted how voters voted against repealing a gas tax.
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