Editor’s note: Santa Barbara resident Peter Marin wrote this commentary before the Historic Landmarks Commission decided against recommending changes to the Mission Canyon Road bridge. But Mr. Marin asked the News-Press to still publish his article because of the possibility of the issue resurfacing.
I want to add my wife Kathryn Marin’s voice and mine to the chorus of citizens opposing major changes in the bridge leading into Mission Canyon from the city.
All three proposals before the city of Santa Barbara are both extreme and, for the most part, unnecessary.
While there are many reasons for opposing the changes proposed, we’d like to concentrate on the safety issue.
But first, these facts: My wife and I have lived in our home (directly back of Rocky Nook Park) for almost 50 years. She is 87. I am 85.
What we fear most of all is the creation of even more danger than now exists from fire. As you may know, the roads in the canyon are narrow and will be immediately clogged if a sudden evacuation occurs.
Mission Canyon Road is one of the main escape routes, if not THE main one, out of the canyon. Any work on the bridge requiring a reduction of lanes or a detour will create immense and life-threatening danger should a fire occur anywhere above us during the construction period.
We do not think, given the danger already existing, and the evidence we have of injury and death when escape routes are closed or lessened, anything should be permitted that is not absolutely necessary — as the bridge changes are not — to put us and thousands of others at risk.
As others will tell you, the bridge is historically significant, beautiful and, yes, sound. To make changes just because money will come from elsewhere is foolish, in some ways indefensible.
Yes, the road itself could be made safer with a stop sign here and there, maybe a crosswalk or two and more signs than now exist regarding permissible speeds.
Replacing the present bridge and straightening the road will invite both more traffic and higher driving speeds, requiring still more signs and crosswalks and perhaps even stop signs, creating more danger and traffic than now exists.
Whatever actual dangers presently exist could be diminished by a couple of crosswalks, maybe a stop sign and more signs regarding speeds. As we remember, only one sign exists on each side of the road.
Everywhere else in town, we make efforts to slow and reduce traffic. That occurs naturally, now, on Mission Canyon Road. Make the changes proposed, and it will increase traffic there but also on Foothill Road (State Route 192) and create more problems on an already clogged road.
You will be increasing both traffic and danger in a narrow-road, hilly, residential area.
Does that make any sense?
Who living here would want that?
We ourselves drive over that bridge several times a day. There are rarely people waiting to cross or any serious delays.
To solve a problem that doesn’t exist and thereby create more problems rather than decreasing them seems a waste of time and money, especially when it will in all likelihood put larger numbers of people at risk.
We are sure the bridge-builders plan to take steps to mitigate the danger. Unfortunately, as we all know, such plans are rarely adequate and often fail in extreme or unanticipated situations.
We live in a high-danger area and are experienced with the city and its plans (and the county as well), and we know first-hand how often these fail.
This is a nonsensical project in a high danger area and should be rejected.
The author lives in Santa Barbara.