SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Caltrans is opening the Montecito Creek Bridge on Friday for the first time since it was damaged during the Montecito debris flow last year.
Caltrans said the bridge will open around 1 p.m. on Friday.
It is one of six bridges along State Route 192 that were damaged during the catastrophic debris flow.
Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins said in a statement:
“I am very pleased that we can bring a small sense of normalcy to a community still healing from this natural disaster."
Caltrans will continue working on the Montecito Creek Bridge for the next few months after it opens.
The bridge will remain open during that time.
Caltrans said it is continuing to widen the Toro Creek Bridge a few miles away to allow for two-way traffic in the area.
The Arroyo Paredon Creek Bridge was completed in May, the Romero Canyon and Toro Canyon Bridges were opened in January and the San Ysidro Creek Bridge was completed in April.
Caltrans said that bicycle railing will also be added to all bridges once they receive it.
Those who work and live in the area say it will be a significant improvement to an area loaded with detours over the last 20 months. In many cases traffic has been rerouted to Coast Village Road and North Jameson lane.
Folded Hills Wine manager Megan Bravo said, "we're all very happy about it, especially for local business."
Nearby Ed Edick with Village Properties said, "I think it is happening as fast as it can happen. For most folks not fast enough."
This area has seen months of work to clear broken homes, remove debris, rebuild roads, and fix the commuter routes that - in some cases disappeared - in the violent storm .
Edick said, there are changes taking place to smooth the traffic flow and make life "normal" again. "You can feel that it is not the challenge to get around. Having this paving certainly enhances things.
So I feel like little by little, week by week, month by month , Montecito is coming back."
His office is on the corner of Olive Mill and Coast Village Road in a brand new building. The site is viewed as a gateway to Santa Barbara where it intersects with Montecito.
Cars and bike riders funneled to Coast Village Road and on a daily basis made for a big vehicle jam session, which impacted parking and in some cases business access. The recent road changes are expected to help the flow and convenience of getting around.
At times, Edick said, "it was bumper to bumper back to Vons."
Bravo agreed and welcomed the changes now and when the new roundabout is built. "I think it just gets so backed up on Coast Village Road and that is frustrating for locals and tourists alike. They don't want to sit in that they want to be enjoying the city," she said.
Around the corner and up the street, the Montecito Creek bridge at Highway 192, west of Olive Mill, has been closed almost two years.
For a smaller bridge it was complicated because of its design, and the rebuilding of water, gas and power lines.
Bravo said she feels the community is responding well to the repairs, repaving, and other improvements to get beyond the disaster of 2018. "We are so thankful for our locals here , it is a great community to be in."