Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe
By Paulina Conn of Mission Canyon
A former Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History (SBMNH) director states in a misleading or ignorant, intentionally fear-inducing way that the Mission Creek Bridge near the Mission must be widened because of Mission Canyon evacuation danger. Untrue.
UCSB’s Geography Department did evacuation studies for Mission Canyon. Evacuations were to be via the Highway 192 east /west corridor, not via Mission Creek Bridge. Riviera residents were not to be endangered. Lower Mission Canyon and the Heights have multiple exits routes without the bridge.
Lower Mission Canyon Road residents have Las Encinas / Puesta del Sol Roads, private Glendessary Lane to Puesta del Sol, reversed one-way Puesta del Sol at the Museum, and Foothill for evacuation.
Heights residents have Cheltenham to Glen Albyn Road westward and an emergency private farm road above Cheltenham. Eastward evacuation is via Las Canoas Road and Highway 192. Southward is on Alamar or other roads.
The real motivation behind the unnecessary and unwanted, by the community, bridge widening is a business deal for the SBMNH. The so-called “citizens’ group” now called the Mission Heritage Trail Association (MHTA) were specialized people chosen to facilitate a west-side pedestrian bridge. A percentage of the tens of thousand of tourists visiting the Old Mission could then walk to the Museum without crossing a street while the public’s east-side path to the public’s Rocky Nook Park from the south was taken away.
The Mission Heritage Trail Association was made up of a retired City Planner, an architect who had worked for the City, Natural History Museum directors and planners, specially chosen historians and bicyclists, some nearby homeowner associations’ board members, and affected property owners. All could finesse City and County processes, advocate for or benefit from taxpayer funds.
In 2011, during the SBMNH’s expansion / renovation plans, and unbeknownst to the general public, the City Transportation Department (DOT) was OK’d for Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds to demolish and replace the historic landmark Mission Creek Bridge.
In 2013 the MHTA and DOTs, with City and County government help, received Caltrans funds for pedestrian bridge and corridor change designs and mandated community workshops. Special multimodal funds were applied for. Traffic “safety” was claimed as the reason for change. Accident and injury statistics in all categories did not and do not support the claims. The historic / scenic corridor is one of the safest in the city and state. The special funds were denied, but the 2011 bridge funds remained. Despite flawed and deceptive workshops, nobody, not even many MHTA members, wanted Mission Creek Bridge touched.
About $86,000 in Caltrans funds and, as of October 30, 2018, well over $70,000 in FHWA funds have been spent. The manipulated corridor / bridge project is in the City and County capital budgets. Is government aware they are spending public money, sacrificing public access to public property for private gain and no real safety issue?
If requested today, the bridge funds would be denied. This bridge is not eligible. The money already spent could have helped everyone feel more comfortable while saving the safety, historic resources, and natural beauty of this historic and scenic corridor.
The bridge funds should be returned or rescinded. Claiming evacuation safety is a disingenuous way to get a west-side-only pedestrian bridge.
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