Local Measure to widen Highway 101

Megan Razzetti

This November, Santa Barbara County voters will vote on Measure A, regarding the renewal of the local transportation sales tax.

If Measure A, does not pass, City College students “will be dramatically affected,” said Gregg Hart, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. “20 percent of revenue will be cut.”

The current tax, which came from Measure D, was approved by voters in 1989, and will expire in March 2010. ?Measure A will generate about $1 billion for road repairs, traffic congestion relief and safety improvements.

Politicians cannot use the money generated to fund these projects to help fix California’s budget crisis. This will also bring more than $520 million to Santa Barbara County, resulting in taxpayers seeing more of their money put to action in their local community.

“This measure will also help Santa Barbara compete against other counties for funding from the government,” Hart said.

Some of the projects that are proposed include the widening of U.S. Highway 101 to six lanes. Most of the highway widening will be financed through state funding.

With additional funding from Measure A, it is estimated that the widening project can be completed four to five years sooner than predicted. The measure is also designed to fund the retrofitting or modification of bridges and highways against earthquakes.

One of the major projects is to grant the Metropolitan Transit District more than $85 million for expansion. In the past, Measure D did not include the transit district. Therefore, other organizations given money by the measure funded the transit district, but it was not designed to be long-term.

Although Measure A seems like a useful plan to some, strengthening the roads and transportation system, many are quick to disagree. “There are strong feelings among the public of where the money should go, and most opponents want to see a different plan,” Hart said. ?

Opponents argue that the measure is an unbalanced plan to upgrade county transportation infrastructure, and is a large tax increase. Some believe that it will put senior citizens and low-income families at a disadvantage.

Arguments also suggest that it is a poorly developed, unbalanced plan, and that voters should wait until Measure D expires. By this time, they argue, a more structured plan can be developed.

Furthermore, the planned widening of U.S. Highway 101, and construction on roads, may result in disruptions that can lead to heavy traffic congestion.