HOV LANE CRUISING AHEAD ON VENTURA U.S.101
Two Caltrans Districts Work Together on a Unique Project for Ventura County and Santa Barbara County
District 7 will be meeting this month with the communities surrounding a unique project: a $151 million, six-mile High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV, or carpool) lane in both directions on the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) that will span two counties and two Caltrans districts.
In District 7, the lane will begin just west of Mobil Pier and extend to the Ventura County line. In Santa Barbara County, (Caltrans District 5) the lane begins at the county line and ends at Casitas Pass Road. The final freeway configuration will be three lanes northbound and three lanes southbound, providing congestion relief, expanded capacity and enhanced safety. Also included are improvements to bikeways and pedestrian access.
“A two-district project like this has never been done before,” said Project Manager Ravi Ghate. “We are working with two transportation planning agencies so it’s been very interesting and challenging to keep all those people informed and satisfied.”
This carpool lane is considered so essential to managing area traffic that it qualified for Prop 1B funding under the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account (CMIA), which ensures that the project will benefit the entire transportation corridor.
Currently, Caltrans is in the process of preparing technical studies and an Initial Study/Environmental Assessment (IS/EA). As a result of public input, three design alternatives are now under consideration.
Alternative 1 would be the “No Build.” Alternative 2 would construct an HOV lane in both directions in the existing median area with road shoulders of varying widths; implement varying road shoulder widths that could include sections with a minimum of two-foot wide inside shoulders and a minimum of seven-foot wide outside shoulders. Alternative 3 would implement a 10-foot wide inside median and 10-foot wide outside shoulder, which would require widening at Bates Road.
Both Alternatives 2 and 3 will offer the following improvements: construct a Pedestrian Undercrossing (PUC) in the community of La Conchita to improve beach access; close existing median openings at Mussel Shoals, La Conchita and Tank Farm; install Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) vehicle detectors, Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) and Changeable Message Signs (CMS) as appropriate; remove and replace metal beam guardrail with concrete barriers; install soundwalls and retaining walls; and convert the existing auxiliary lane and/or mixed flow lane located near the U.S. 101/SR 150 separation to accommodate the HOV lane. The type and configuration of bikeways are being considered for design feasibility.
As Caltrans has progressed in the environmental process, the Department has taken stakeholders along all the way. Their comments were solicited throughout the course of several meetings with the La Conchita and Mussel Shoal communities as well as various bicycle groups. These comments generally concerned ramps, pedestrian access, parking and bike paths. Additional meetings are planned with groups in Santa Barbara County, including a public hearing scheduled for September 9 in Carpinteria.
According to the current schedule, the Final Environmental Document will be approved this fall. Design will complete in spring 2010 and construction is expected to begin in early 2011. The project will finish in approximately four and a half years.
“District 7 looks forward to its continuing dialogue with freeway users and neighboring communities, as well as working closely with District 5, as this project moves forward,” Ghate said.