Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties Join the Carpool Lane Club
Improved congestion management arrives on the coast. (click on photos to enlarge and read captions)
A cool breeze blew off the beach as a new California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) project received a warm reception at a groundbreaking ceremony in Carpinteria on April 30.
The project involves building a six mile carpool lane in each direction on the Ventura Freeway (U.S. 101) from Mobil Pier Road in Ventura County to Casitas Pass Road in Santa Barbara County. “One of the many exciting things about this project is that it is the first carpool lane on U.S. 101 in Southern California,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “But in addition to improving mobility, it will also enhance safety by constructing a pedestrian undercrossing in La Conchita, adding concrete barriers and closing existing median barriers. The community is really looking forward to this.
A major enhancement will be construction of a southbound bike lane as well as new landscaping, drainage improvements and installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems to help Caltrans manage traffic. “And let us not forget the jobs it will create during construction,” he added.
Roughly 80 percent of the financing for the $102 million project, or $81 million, comes from Proposition 1B transportation bonds, approved by voters in 2006. Since then, more than $13 billion in Proposition 1B funds have been distributed statewide. “The benefits these projects bring to California include a huge boon to the economy, and the investment in our transportation system will continue to serve motorists for generations to come,” Dougherty said.
Caltrans District 7 Director Mike Miles opened the ceremony, announcing “something brand new to both Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties – their first ever carpool lane. To residents of and commuters through these counties, I can only say: Welcome to the club. Member privileges include less congestion, better air quality, and improved freeway operations.
Miles praised Caltrans partner transportation agencies, the Ventura County Transportation Commission (VCTC) and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SCBAG). Their support and cooperation enables Caltrans to construct freeway improvement projects that serve both the state and local communities,” he said.
Both the Department and the District director stressed Caltrans’ commitment to carpool lanes as the number one congestion relief strategy, pointing out that they save users a minute per mile as well as improve operations for motorists in mixed-use lanes.
Also speaking at the event were Ventura County Supervisor and VCTC Chair John Zaragoza, Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett and Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal.
Zaragoza’s remarks included praise for the level of cooperation displayed by two Caltrans districts, two county transportation agencies and numerous other government entities all working together to facilitate this project.
Supervisor Bennett, with members of the Channel Island Bike Club standing behind him, extolled the new bike lane, which he said was going to result in dramatic changes for the bike-riding public. “You are going to see more families riding and in general more people feeling much more comfortable using their bikes to go from Ventura to Santa Barbara,” he said.
A large Coastal Express commuter bus and smaller commuter van were parked at the ceremony to illustrate Supervisor Carbajal’s comments. “These commuter options will be able to take advantage of the new carpool lanes,” he said.