SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Montecito resident Gene Tyburn is tired of the traffic trudging through Montecito during rush hour, which he notices now seemingly every day.
“I think our community has been ruined, he said. “It’s a traffic jam beyond belief!"
He says Montecito’s side streets are especially jammed on Friday nights.
“On Friday night when people are going on vacation or going out of town or something like that, the traffic is just a standstill,” Tyburn said.
Slower rush hour traffic could affect emergency personnel. Tyburn says he called police recently, and an officer five minutes away needed 30 minutes to get to him.
Santa Barbara City Public Works says the back ups come from Highway 101, which goes down to two lanes in Montecito.
That bottleneck encourages some drivers to cut through Montecito's side streets, frustrating residents and the local economy.
“The thing that we notice most is the impacts to businesses,” Public Works Principal Transportation Engineer Derrick Bailey said. “There's so much congestion on Coast Village Road that it's affecting customers' ability to get to businesses and spend their money and support our local businesses."
Caltrans already has a plan to widen the freeway in Montecito to three lanes, which may be the only way to truly solve the problem.
“In terms of big-picture solution, definitely it's the Highway 101 widening that's gonna relieve all the congestion that's happening with people trying to get south,” Bailey said.
The Highway 101 widening in Montecito, however, is the final stage of Caltrans’ current project in Santa Barbara County. Funding for that phase of the project has not been secured yet, and the construction appears to be years away.