The Santa Barbara City Council voted Tuesday in support of two safety improvement projects for Milpas Street and sections of upper De La Vina Street, while also directing city staff to apply for Active Transportation Program grants to fund design, environmental review, and construction.
The projects are part of the city’s Vision Zero strategy, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, and equitable mobility for all.
Based on the city’s master plan policies, community feedback, and the Vision Zero strategy, the projects will attempt to improve pedestrian safety and reduce collisions through improved crossings, lighting, curb extensions, and sidewalk widening.
If the $2 million grant is secured, the De La Vina project will take place near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, between Constance Avenue and Padre Street.
The project will reduce the street from two travel lanes to one to create room for a buffered bicycle lane, and will install curb extensions, lighting, and crosswalks at Constance Avenue, Junipero Street, Pueblo Street, and Los Olivos Street, according to Transportation Planning and Parking Manager Robert Dayton.
De La Vina Street was found to be one of the city’s corridors with the most severe and fatal injuries and has some of the highest ranking intersections for pedestrian and cyclist involved collisions.
Between Constance Avenue and Padre Street, city staff found that between 2014 and 2019 there were a total of 56 reported collisions with 38 injuries resulting from traffic collisions, including two severe injuries.
The most common type of accident was found to be when a vehicle turned left from the right lane, sideswiping a vehicle in the left lane, and broadside collisions.
“All of these collisions would be addressed by this project,” said Mr. Dayton.
Staff is also considering installing approximately 200 feet of sidewalk infill along the south side of Padre Street between Chapala and De La Vina streets, which is the only street between Chapala and De La Vina streets that does not have a continuous sidewalk link on at least one side of the road.
In their analysis of reducing this area of De La Vina Street to one-lane, staff found that the change would not be a problem in terms of traffic capacity and commute time, according to city Traffic Engineer Derrick Bailey.
“What we found is there was virtually no difference from having De La Vina two lanes versus De La Vina one lane,” said Mr. Bailey.
On Milpas Street, city staff identified several areas for safety improvement in accordance with the Vision Zero strategy as part of an ongoing plan for a major maintenance effort coming in the next three to four years.
Although no pattern for types of traffic collisions could be identified, a bilingual public outreach effort yielded several suggestions for ways to improve pedestrian safety.
“This street serves so many people in our town, so when we talked about this street we wanted to make sure we really brought everyone out,” said Mr. Dayton.
In order to address the public’s request for safer pedestrian crossings, the city plans to remount pedestrian flashers on mast arms to increase visibility at the intersection of Milpas and Yanonali streets.
The city will also install new pedestrian flashers at the Milpas roundabout’s exit points to increase driver awareness of pedestrians crossing, and two additional street lights will be installed at every intersection from Mason Street to Canon Perdido Street.
The largest issue for the public on Milpas is walkability, but because of the many Ficus trees lining the street, the task of making much needed improvements to the poor sidewalk conditions is a significant challenge for the city.
Milpas Street’s eight-foot sidewalk is reduced to three feet in some areas due to the trees,
bus stops, utilities, and other street furnishings.
“Four of the existing tree wells that we have, what this project would do should we get this grant and you like this proposal, is that we would create curb-extensions at the trees,” said Mr. Dayton.
Over time, as the trees mature and need to be replaced, new trees would go further out into the parking lane, allowing the sidewalk to be a total of seven-feet, explained Mr. Dayton.
Staff also proposed moving the parking lane closer to the sidewalk.
“As the curb is eight feet we’d move it to seven,” said Mr. Dayton. “What that does is that gives the parking lane a little bit more breathing room, just a foot, so that there’s less friction between the number two lane and parkers. Easier to get out of your car, minimizing those mirror swipes and increasing the capacity at Milpas because more people will feel more comfortable driving in that number two lane.”
Staff hopes that this adjustment will also give the Ficus trees more room to expand their roots, resulting in healthier coverage and ultimately less maintenance for the city, said Mr. Dayton.
The project balances the sidewalk improvements with an estimated loss of 28 out of 160 parking spots along the Milpas corridore.
“This is the compromise and we did hear from the public that parking is important on the street,” said Mr. Dayton.
“But we think it’s a good compromise and if this should ever be built Milpas will look much different than it is now.”
A cost estimate and budget will be developed for the upcoming Milpas pavement maintenance project in the next few years, when the project moves into design, and more outreach on specific design details for each block is necessary if ATP grant monies are secured.
ATP grant applications are due June 15.