The State Street Undercrossing is Getting a Jeff Shelton Makeover

After architect Jeff Shelton posted this photo of his office with a caption explaining that “the tiled columns on the wall are concept drawings for a new downtown SB project,” I dug around online….

It turns out that plans have been underway for a while to improve the stretch of State Street that runs under Highway 101 and Montecito Street—between Gutierrez and Yanonali streets—but there hasn’t been much in the press beyond a 2018 Noozhawk article about the city council agreeing to fund the project. The main impetus is safety: according to the plans from the city’s Public Works department, “the undercrossing has the highest concentration of serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians and cyclists in the city.” If you don’t care to read the full paragraph below, the gist is that space will be taken from the roadway so that the sidewalks and bike lanes can be made much wider.

The proposed roadway will reduce vehicle lanes to one lane in each direction plus flush (painted) median for emergency access, and reconfigure the turning lanes to accommodate traffic’s turning movements at both Yanonali and Gutierrez streets. The proposed roadway configuration will comprise a 10-to-11-foot northbound and 10-to-11-foot southbound vehicle lane. 10-foot-wide left turn lanes will be provided for northbound at Gutierrez Street, southbound at Yanonali Street, and an 11-foot-wide right turn lane/bus pocket for southbound at Yanonali Street. The proposed project will also increase the width and buffer for the bike lanes in each direction to a width of 7 feet for bike lanes and a 2-to-3-foot buffer between the bicycles and the vehicles. Sidewalks on each side will also be widened to 14 to 15 feet. The widths above vary by a foot as State Street transitions under the highway.

The drawings below respectively illustrate the changes under the freeway (where the sidewalk is raised) and on either side of it (where the sidewalk is flush with the road).

I didn’t see any previous coverage mentioning Shelton’s involvement—which, as you can see from the plans, changes everything. His signature use of color and pattern might just turn the undercrossing into a destination.

The tiled columns should perk up the area under Montecito Street and the 101.

While the fence along the sidewalk ties in nicely with the former Casa Blanca restaurant building, also by Shelton, at the corner of Gutierrez.

And I love that effort is being put into the sidewalk itself. If I could only get my hands on one of the bronze inlay buttons….

And the lighting will be improved.

The California Transportation Commission awarded the city a grant of $4.756 million for the project, so the cost to the city is now expected to be $1.2 million. As for timing, “we recently received project design approval from the Historic Landmarks Commission,” said Public Works project manager Eric Goodall. “We have begun the right-of-way phase of the project and anticipate completing design in Spring of 2022 with construction commencing shortly after.”

Other local projects in the works:
••• Highway 101
••• Dwight Murphy Field upgrade
••• Ortega Park renovation
••• New Carpinteria skate park
••• Santa Claus Lane improvements

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