Santa Barbara is the proud parent of a new highway after the City Council voted unanimously to adopt State Route 225 — or as it is better known around these parts, Cliff Drive and the portion of Las Positas Road between Cliff and Highway 101 — provided that the city attorney and manager are appeased on a few sticking points. The main conduit through the Mesa, Cliff Drive is currently overseen by Caltrans, but neighborhood residents, concerned about safety, have long advocated for the city to take control of the thoroughfare.
Any safety upgrades to Cliff Drive or Las Positas would be buried near the bottom of Caltrans’s priority list, but Santa Barbara City College students, seniors who live at the Housing Authority’s Shifco complex, and parents of young children all expressed concern that crossing the street is akin to playing a real-life version of Frogger. City College student advocate Alfonso Palencia said, “You see students running with the fear of death in their eyes.”
While he supported the action to take local control of the “highway,” Councilmember and Mesa resident Randy Rowse said it would be a “false hope” to expect any immediate enhancements — such as five potential new crosswalks — since funds for them do not exist. His fellow Councilmember Grant House said, however, that the city needs to be prepared when and if such funds do become available.
By allowing Caltrans to “relinquish” the route, the City of Santa Barbara will incur $400,000 annually in maintenance costs, as well as a one-time fee of $120,000 for a trafficsignal controller conversion. City Attorney Steve Wiley strongly cautioned the council about the city’s potential legal liability from accidents, as well as regulatory enforcement actions related to 10 known soil containment sites along with other environmental hazards that could be discovered in the future. Caltrans will give Santa Barbara $819,000 for drainage repairs, but it is unwilling to share in any liability. The two still need to work out the shared maintenance costs of the Las Positas overpass and the Castillo Street underpass.