Preliminary Designs for the Montecito Section of Highway 101

Yesterday afternoon, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and Caltrans presented preliminary designs for the Montecito section of Highway 101 to the Montecito Association‘s Land Use/Transportation Committee. There was a lot to take in, so I’m breaking it into two posts. This one is about Phase 4, Segment D, which includes the Olive Mill and San Ysidro interchanges, and for which funding is still in the works.

First, here’s a reminder of when the current Phase 4 projects are slated to finish.

Now, on to Montecito. The main purpose, of course, is to widen the highway to three lanes in each direction; the new third lane will be an HOV lane. There will also be an auxiliary lane between the Olive Mill and San Ysidro, so the onramp essentially turns into the offramp, if that makes sense. (There is/was one between Sheffield and Evans.) And the dangerous southbound onramp at San Ysidro Road will be made much longer, so you’ll actually have time to get up to speed before merging onto the highway.

Finding space for the two new lanes in each direction means getting rid of plantings—including the magnificent trees—in the median. (This is not news, but it’s still disappointing.) Instead, the design adds planters along the shoulder and sound walls. In the second slide below, you’ll see that the short barrier in the median has a band along the top to match the textured checkerboard pattern in the sound wall.

At the creek crossings, the median needs to be porous to allow water to flood through.

The presentation then shifted to specific moments along the corridor. Each pink dot below indicates the viewpoint of the subsequent rendering. There were fewer photographs of existing conditions, but you probably have a good sense of what the freeway looks like. In the renderings directly below, note the timber rail along the overpass (which is being refurbished rather than rebuilt) and a better look at the median barrier.

What’s notable about the next renderings is the landscaping, made to look like something out of Avatar or an aquarium. I’d be surprised and delighted if they can achieve anything that lush and colorful, although the homeless may only find it more appealing.

When there’s less space along the sides, we go back to the sound wall planters, with trees if possible. The vines are intended to help cover parts of the wall on the front and back.

Moving on to the Olive Mill interchange, which has lots of room for landscaping but no new northbound onramp.

And that’s it for 4D. All in all, I think it looks pretty great, considering the myriad restrictions faced by the designers—not just in terms of space, but also adhering to design standards for the freeway in general. Next up: 4E, from Olive Mill north past the Cabrillo interchange.


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I’ll miss the big trees so much. I couldn’t hate the textured sound walls more (already on display in Carpinteria), though I understand the surface design itself may help scatter sound and, hopefully, allows climbing vines to cling and cover ASAP.

Dan O. Seibert

The renderings are nonsense. Just look at the roundabout at CVR & Hot Springs. As Paul Simon sang, “nothing but the dead & dying back in my little town.” Most of the plants & trees are on life support, only the weeds survive.


These small roundabouts are dangerous and poorly thought out, especially with freeway offramp traffic. Its going to change the charm of Coast Village for sure — and we’ll all miss the tall trees. I wonder how CalTrans plans to support the illustrations of plants that require far more water — oh that’s right — it’ll just become mulch and dusty plans that never really grow. Yuck. Not much we can do about, other than fight the bad roundabout design (study them in Europe, please) and take photos of when Montecito had trees.


What a way to wreck our town. It won’t even help traffic. The little planting they do looks like the spit up a few leaves in mulch beds I’m sure whilst charging the county for big container planting. And the noise. Get ready folks. I live 1 mile up from freeway in carp and barely heard the freeway before construction and now it’s like I’m living on it. The walls pop the sound up and into your backyard. Tearing down all the foliage that previously absorbed sound is extremely noticeable. This sickens me to see what’s happening here.