H-SANTA BARBARA

Nov 19, 2010 9:05 PM by Ariel Wesler

Third lane opens on Hwy 101 through Santa Barbara

Caltrans is giving drivers another reason to celebrate this holiday season. It opened a third lane this morning on the southbound side of Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. The new lane runs from the on-ramp at Milpas Street to a half-mile past Cabrillo Boulevard.

The third lane's a charm for drivers heading through Santa Barbara this holiday season. It marks a major milestone for Santa Barbara County's Milpas to Hot Springs Road project, and it's done a year and a half early.

"That doesn't happen very often with government projects, so it just says a lot about the people working on the project," said President Danny Copus with the Coast Village Business Association.

"It's going to help alleviate some of the congestion that we're all concerned about," said Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

But the California Highway Patrol says the extra lane will do more than reduce congestion and frustration, it will improve safety in an area known for accidents.

"It's not just people sitting in traffic. It's traffic accidents that happen further up the road when people have to come to an abrupt stop because traffic is stopped ahead," said CHP Capt. Jeff Sgobba

For local store owners, it's a chance to bring in more business and regain some of customers lost during construction. Caltrans crews have been working overtime for the last few months in an effort finish the third lane before Thanksgiving.

"The timing couldn't be better with us wanting to get business back to the Coast Village Road area, now that it's been kind of cleaned up over here and all the construction is pretty much done over here for the most part," Copus said.

A gift from city, county, and state agencies designed to keep on giving. Creating a third lane is just a small part of the entire $53 million construction project. It started in July 2008 and is expected to be finished by 2012.

The project was funded by state Proposition 1B and Measure D--a county half cent sales tax for transportation projects. It was approved by voters in 1989.

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