The city of Santa Maria will receive reimbursements for work on a Highway 101/135 interchange project through a recently approved agreement with the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.
The project will include the replacement of overcrossings and ramps at the interchange of Highway 101 and California State Route 135 on South Broadway, with the goal of decreasing congestion and providing new traffic access along Seward Avenue, according to Director of Public Works Kevin McCune.
While funding is guaranteed through the half-cent Measure A sales tax approved in 2008, those funds are currently unavailable due to other ongoing projects, requiring the city to request reimbursements from SBCAG for project costs.
"This cooperative agreement will provide the opportunity for the city to receive reimbursement for work ongoing as soon as funding is available," McCune said.
The agreement with SBCAG will only provide reimbursements for the environmental and design phase of the project, expected to last through 2023 and generate costs of approximately $3.5 million, according to McCune.
A total of $10 million was allocated toward the project when Measure A was passed by county voters.
While city officials would like to begin construction within the next five years, SBCAG has not scheduled work to begin until fiscal year 2030-31, according to a city staff report.
The timeline for the project remains unclear as City Council members pursue discussions with SBCAG about moving up the date, along with timelines for other North County Highway 101 interchanges onto Betteravia Road and McCoy Lane, which also are not scheduled until nearly 2030.
"In nine years, Santa Maria is just going to grow and grow and grow, so it’s imperative that we try to push a closer date on this," Councilwoman Etta Waterfield said Tuesday, echoing concerns expressed at a roadway projects discussion last January.
Once the interchange is completed, Waterfield said, residents will have better access to the city's northern entrance and sites like Marian Regional Medical Center and Pioneer Valley High School, alleviating traffic along Main Street.
Mayor Alice Patino agreed, saying the interchange development should have happened 30 years ago when costs were lower to meet the needs of the city.
Ultimately, SBCAG will have the final say on the timeline of the project since it is funded on the regional level.