Mission and State: Train In Vain?

June 11, 2013

Remember “a lane and a train”?
That’s what Santa Barbara County voters said they wanted when the gridlock south of Milpas Street caused by more than 12,000 commuters driving in from Ventura and back on weekdays became intolerable. In 2008, they voted overwhelmingly in favor of Measure A, a $1 billion local sales tax for transportation that set aside $140 million to widen the 101 Freeway and $25 million to launch a commuter rail service between Ventura and Goleta.

Today, the freeway interchange at Milpas Street is complete, an extra northbound lane in Summerland is finished, carpool lanes are under construction in Carpinteria, and proposals for new interchanges and lanes in Montecito are at least being reviewed, though the freeway widening project there has been delayed by heated challenges from the Montecito Association.

But the pilot project for commuter rail—a train dedicated to ferrying riders from Ventura to the South Coast on weekday mornings and taking them back in the afternoon—never left the station. Union Pacific Railroad, the owner of the tracks and the nation’s largest freight hauler, won’t give it a green light, despite a $30-million offer to lease the tracks for 10 years and improve two rail sidings.