Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

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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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19 Comments

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PitMix Dec 24, 2018 10:47 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Why does sound like all of the arguments we've heard against widening the 101 freeway, taking out the 101 stoplight, and eliminating the fast lane on and off-ramps on the 101? If you've ever biked or walked through this area you know it is more dangerous than it needs to be with all of the intersections and narrow corridors. When they get their fire through this area, and it will happen someday, it is going to be a nightmare.

salsa guy Dec 23, 2018 11:58 PM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Simply put leave the bridge and the roadway alone. Both function nicely and have for decades. I’m a newcomer to SB, on,y been here 50 years.

ACF Dec 23, 2018 07:24 PM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

A sensible, affordable solution would be a stop sign in the vicinity of Las Encinas (to slow down the Mission Canyon speeding traffic) and a couple of crosswalks for those who choose to walk to the Museum. We who live in the Canyon like the elegant old stone bridge and the curvy entrance to the Canyon.

Lorna Dec 23, 2018 01:28 PM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Speed is not an issue on the bridge. The curve at the bridge forces cars to slow down which is exactly how we should keep it if we want to protect pedestrians. The Museum of Natural History's agenda to get more tourists to walk from the Mission to their Museum would straighten and widen the bridge allowing cars to go faster, thus putting pedestrians, bicyclists, and adjacent properties in danger. There have been no accidents on the bridge and the only fender benders recorded are at "the triangle" south of the bridge, not at the bridge, and even those are so few that the intersection doesn't make the City's list of dangerous intersections. The Museum first argued that the bridge should be widened for pedestrian safety, but when the statistics didn't back them up, they've recently changed their argument to fire evacuation danger. The statistics don't back that up either. This is a solution in search of a problem. An expensive one at that. The bridge has survived intact through floods and earthquakes for many decades. Leave this charming piece of history alone.

Flicka Dec 23, 2018 10:30 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Tear down the historic water reservoir? Why? Good heavens, what are you thinking? Maybe tear down the Mission too? History means nothing to some very likely newcomers. Don't say you have been here 20 or 30 years, still newcomers.

Emmenanthe Dec 23, 2018 10:17 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

The bridge is a beautiful example of historic Santa Barbara. It should be preserved as is. The newer and bigger and more convenient is always better paradigm is so post-world war II! We have all witnessed the irretrievable losses and unanticipated and damaging consequences of that mode of thinking. Keep the bridge. Keep the reservoir. Send the people who dislike anything that is not bright new and shiny to pull their noses out of their virtual universe and get an education in respect for humanity and the real world.

El Barbareno Dec 23, 2018 09:44 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Leave the bridge alone! I walk that route nearly every day and do not find it it horrible or hazardous. Simple flashing lights along the crosswalk and flashing pedestrian signals would easily remedy the hand-wringing and anguish the bridge destroyers have about crossing Mission Canyon Road. The Committee to Destroy the Mission Creek Bridge has changed their name several times over the years along but their objective remains obvious.

Shasta Guy Dec 23, 2018 09:22 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

I cross that bridge twice a day and I’ve seen every bad driver & pedestrian scenario. We just need to get a couple of those cross walk flashing light things to help direct pedestrians to the pedestrian path on the bridge itself. Also put a couple speed bumps to prevent drivers from fulfilling their “24 Hours of Le Mans” fantasy everyday.

Lorax Dec 23, 2018 08:49 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Mrs Conn is not alone in this, many share her position and concerns. you can also and let our officials know by signing the Move on petition created under Save our Historic Mission Creek Bridge https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/help-us-save-the-historic?source=c.em&r_by=10300915

hz Dec 23, 2018 08:43 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

it is a very dangerous area for pedestrians and cyclists . Cars speed through the curve there and there is no space on the side of the road for anyone else. Instead of demolishing the whole bridge, why not build a smaller, sepertae pedestrian bike path bridge beside the current bridge on the rocky nook side of the road?

a-1574308908 Dec 23, 2018 08:34 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

The major issue with that corridor is the unsafe right-of-way for pedestrians. Mrs. Conn has been against this improvement study since other local residents raised the issue many years ago and she is continuing her opposition here. The proposal is to rebuild the bridge not destroy it.

Lorax Dec 23, 2018 08:33 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Regardless of if you value history or not, the majority of people do not want this beautiful scenic corridor ruined with unnecessary changes. It's charm is unique to Santa Barbara. The Mission Creek Bridge is already protected under Historic Landmarks designation in both the City and County as part of Pueblo Viejo . It is also eligible for the National Historic Registry and is also one of the oldest bridges in California. It is actually wider than the Historic Camino Cemado bridge that carries all the South bound 101 freeway traffic near Gaviota. Most importantly however, there is no safety issue with fire evacuation in this area. This has been tested many times as we and our fire department well know. The actual projected cost now for this proposed mess is 12 million in tax payer's dollars for this proposed path that only runs from just past the Historic Mission to the corner at Puesta del sol, the Natural History museums front door, not even the full length of the corridor. No thanks no way!

uponthehill Dec 23, 2018 08:29 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

The bridge is a lovely treasure. The corridor is not a freeway. Slow down and enjoy the scenery. If someone knows the proceedure to ensure it's protection we will stand with you.

Shasta Guy Dec 23, 2018 08:20 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

All recent fires have allowed enough time for orderly evacuation without that bridge being a bottle neck. The only exception would be a Tea Fire Scenario which blew up badly in populated area causing rapid evacuation conditions. The Holiday Fire in Goleta was the same. If you look at all the boulders in Rocky Nook park, it’s obvious that a 2018 Montecito Class Debris Flow occurred in that drainage. No bridge is likely to survive that scenario. If you don’t want to be stuck there, evacuate when asked to. Better yet, when bad sundowners start developing start thinking: what should I be doing if I need to evacuate in the next few hours...

SantaBarbaraObserver Dec 23, 2018 07:49 AM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

Come on people. Its an old bridge, nothing special, nothing pretty, nothing truly worthy of protection. Nostalgia is not history. That area is a nasty bottleneck. Pedestrians don't have a clear path, bikes are jammed into the edge of a tiny road, sightlines are poor and the traffic backs up when there are barely a few dozen cars. Fix the area so when the next fire comes in a matter of minutes, thousands of residents are not stuck in their cars because some old people have nostalgia for a small stone bridge from their youth. And while you're at it, tear down or do something with that deteriorating and ugly water reservoir with all the overgrown weeds and rusty fencing. Or is that also so historic that it can never be touched?

Minibeast Dec 22, 2018 11:11 PM
Historic Mission Creek Bridge is Safe

This is bad news. My family and I object strenuously to any desecration of this wonderful old bridge. The bridge should be declared a landmark, kept safe from those who would destroy its elegant beauty and its value to the community. Thank you, Paula, for putting the time in and letting us know about this proposed travesty.

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