The kick-off event for construction of the Olive Mill Roundabout took place Friday morning in Montecito.
Officials say the $9 million project will improve traffic flow at the intersection at Olive Mill Road, Coast Village Road, North Jameson Lane, the northbound Highway 101 off-ramp and the southbound Highway 101 on-ramp.
Event speakers included Santa Barbara Mayor Randy Rowse, lst District Supervisor Das Williams, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal and Caltrans District 5 Director Tim Gubbins.
“This morning’s event was really well attended, and the project is a collaboration between the county, city and Caltrans. The project will handle the traffic increase from HOV lane to the 101 and will increase capacity, and we need greater capacity on side streets,” Mayor Rowse told the News-Press after the ceremony. “This is really a prerequisite to the freeway improvements because we don’t want to increase capacity on the freeway without increasing capacity on side streets.
“Construction will begin later this month, and it will impact drivers’ ability to get on the southbound freeway,” Mayor Rowse said. “Hopefully people will be able to follow the signs and get on at Garden Street or Milpas Street.”
Rep. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, said the intersection has needed to be updated for many years.
“The various streets and freeway ramps that intersect it have made it a challenge that I’ve heard about from Central Coast residents all the way back to when I was a county supervisor for this area,” Rep. Carbajal said. “I am pleased that we are moving forward with a solution that addresses Montecito’s mobility needs. As with the federal funds that helped this project get off the ground, I will continue to work in Congress to deliver the investments needed to improve the commutes and meet the transportation needs of every Central Coast resident.”
In a news release, Mr. Gubbins said Caltrans is pleased to continue its working relationship with the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, Santa Barbara County and the city of Santa Barbara to construct the road improvement.
“This really is a beautifully designed roundabout and will enhance traffic circulation for the local streets as well as the busy Highway 101 on- and off-ramps at Olive Mill Road,” Mr. Gubbins said.
During the ceremony, 1st District Supervisor Das Williams said the roundabout is designed to get Santa Barbara and Montecito moving.
“We have known for years that getting these local roundabouts in place prior to the freeway improvement would help our community,” Supervisor Williams said. “In fact, the modeling really showed that if we didn’t do it ahead of the freeway construction that there could be dramatic safety consequences — i.e. queuing on the freeway in the morning commute which leads to accidents…
“The importance for this business district is illustrated anytime you just look at this intersection,” he said. “I dare you to count for a little while how often people actually use the intersection correctly. Meaning how often they wait for all other users that have been in the intersection earlier than them to go before going. It is a rare occurrence.”
The Olive Mill Roundabout is funded by regional funding coordinated by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
Crews will close the northbound off-ramp at Olive Mill Road and the southbound on-ramp at Olive Mill Road to allow space for the contractor to work and to reduce the amount of traffic moving through the construction area. Motorists are advised to expect initial safety fencing and grading on the southeast corner near the closed ramps.
Throughout construction, drivers will have access through the intersection, but Caltrans said there will be night work as needed.
Caltrans expects delays of 5-10 minutes throughout construction.
At Friday’s ceremony, Supervisor Williams urged Santa Barbara residents to do some Christmas shopping on Coast Village Road.
“It’s really important that we support our local businesses through this time so think of Coast Village Road. Think of Santa Claus Lane,” Mr. Williams said, referring to the popular Carpinteria street. “All the businesses are going to be suffering a lot through this season because we have got to get some of this construction project done … Prioritize your trips so that if you are not patronizing a business, you stay on the freeway.
“It’s also important to note that this partnership has meant that we are getting this done early. We’re distributing the pain over a longer time period but enabling people to still get through the intersection,” he said. “It’s technically difficult to keep an intersection like this open during construction so we really want to thank Caltrans for being willing and able to have a construction staging plan that allows the intersection to be used …
“Please expect delays if you do drive through this intersection during construction. Be a good neighbor and let cars merge into traffic from neighboring lanes,” Mr. Williams said. “Watch for construction workers. It’s a dangerous job, particularly during these darker months, and unfortunately there have been casualties in other areas of the state recently and tragically. So let’s keep an eye out for them and know it might be 30 seconds of our life, but it might be the rest of their life. Drive slow and be alert.
“A lot of people seem to think that driving in the corridor when it says 55 means 70,” Supervisor Williams said. “It actually means 55. And it means 55 also on weekends because the orientation is not designed for people driving 70 even without workers in place. Our team is committed to working on an efficient schedule to get this roundabout built by summer. That’s a fast schedule. So let’s celebrate this start together, and let’s get Santa Barbara moving.”