Panel plans further discussion
The Historic Landmarks Commission visited the Mission Creek Bridge Monday and walked around an 1891 structure that is undergoing study and debate.
The commission also discussed the timeline of the historic bridge and the different adjustments that have been made to the structure over the years.
Jessica Grant, the supervising transportation planner for the Santa Barbara Public Works Department, told the News-Press that most of Monday’s conversation focused on proposed options for safety improvements.
The commission will discuss the bridge further Wednesday.
“There will be no decision at Wednesday’s meeting. We’re very early on in the process,” Ms. Grant told the News-Press. “It’s really just to go over existing conditions and what is historic about the bridge in an immediate vicinity that is worth pointing out.”
The city’s consultant historian will be present during Wednesday’s meeting to provide a brief overview of the bridge’s significance, followed by Ms. Grant going over the various constraints, which include right-of-way, biological, hydrological, roadway, utilities, historic resource and financial constraints — what she described as “the biggies.”
The report is available at www.santabarbaraca.gov/gov/brdcomm/dm/historic/agendas.asp.
The report presents both roadway alignment options and structure options to help the city determine the best path forward to improve safety.
“The existing historic Mission Canyon Bridge is ‘Functionally Obsolete,’ seismically and hydraulically deficient,” according to the report.
Ms. Grant explained that the bridge earned a sufficiency rating of 52.3, and any less than 50 would have made the bridge eligible for replacement as part of the Highway Bridge Program.
However, funding sources will become more of a conversation once the studies’ investigation period is over and the city can define a project.
“This particular grant source is limited on what they will and will not fund, so I think it’ll be a harder conversation later (that) if there is any sort of improvement, that we probably need to have a significant amount of matching funds to afford it,” the transportation planner said.
Between December 2020, when the city presented its initial study’s findings to the public and now, Ms. Grant said public opinion hasn’t changed much from its original divide.
Residents tend to either support the improvements for safety reasons or not want the structure to be touched, as it withstood each severe weather event since its construction in 1891.
“We have very passionate residents, and we’ve definitely heard from all different angles about the bridge,” she said. “You have a very strong audience for, ‘Don’t even think about touching anything on the bridge’ to ‘We need to move the roadway component and have this roadway built for pedestrians to pass and safety.’
“I don’t expect the viewpoints to necessarily change,” she added. “I think we will have very strong opinions on this, and that’s OK … We as staff just provide the historic landmarks information … At the hearing this Wednesday, it’s just, ‘What are the existing conditions?’ and sharing that information to them (HLC).”
As far as next steps after the meeting, Ms. Grant said city staff members won’t really know until they receive the HLC’s feedback.
The staff may need another meeting with the HLC. After that comes the environmental review process and likely a follow-up City Council meeting, Ms. Grant said.
She said it will probably be another year before the city begins the conversation about funding and construction.
“We are sharing what we know, but there’s nothing — I don’t think — easy about this studies effort. There’s a lot of critical issues …There’s not a clear solution,” she said. “I anticipate that there’s a lot of public comment … I think how we characterize it is (that there are) very mixed options. I’m not sure on this one. I think it will probably stay like that.
“We just have to provide our decision makers the information, because they’re the ones that will be making those difficult decisions.”
The meeting will take place at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, and it can be viewed on City TV Channel 18 or streamed live at santabarbaraca.gov/citytv. Public comments may be submitted via email to email@example.com or during the meeting as well.