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Highway Expansion/Noise Worry RV Park Owner

April 25, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Sunrise RV Park marked by black locator along Highway 101 (red line) in Southern California. Map courtesy of Yahoo Inc.

The Sunrise RV Park located alongside Highway 101 at Salinas Street in California’s Santa Barbara County is concerned that once portions of sound wall between the park and highway are removed, tenants will be exposed to noisy traffic, KEYT-TV, Santa Barbara reported.

The park has filed an appeal with the City of Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments approved more than $5 million to fast track certain improvement projects on Highway 101.

The project includes adding a third lane from the on-ramp at Hot Springs to Salinas Street, which is currently just an auxiliary lane forcing to exit at Salinas Street, in Santa Barbara.

The Daily Sound explained:

The change rankled John and Helen Free. In the letter of appeal to the city council, Susan Petrovich, attorney for the Frees, claimed the changes could do irreparable harm to the park.

“This amendment…will negatively impact the Frees’ business and submit their guests to risk of property damage, personal injury and even death,” the letter alleged.

The amendment, the letter states, will cause a financial loss that, “constitutes an unconstitutional taking of property,” and calls for substantial changes that require another environmental impact Report.

The Frees’ major concerns are in the noise levels and traffic flow the new changes will make.

The amendment requires the removal of an 18-foot section of a 600-foot sound wall. The owners have argued that increased noise from construction in the beginning phases of the project has already cost them business.

During construction of the initial sound wall, Caltrans removed a privacy fence that separated the park from the freeway. The letter claims it took several months for the wall to be finished, leaving park residents exposed to the 101 traffic.

“They may as well have been parked on the side of the busy freeway,” the letter said.

The letter said the park has spent months rebuilding its reputation and its vacancy rate is below the preconstruction level. Removal of part of the sound wall could destroy all that.

They also claim that the removal of the wall would have a large safety impact.

The letter states that drivers in the past have overshot the tight curve of the Salinas Street exit and ended up crashing into the park, damaging fences and RVs.

The wall now provides some protection against that. But the letter says that its removal will jeopardize park safety again, especially given that the exit lane will be changed to a third northbound lane.

“The hazard is real, not imagined,” the letter said.

City staff believes the effect on noise is overblown and the changes will make the exit safer, not more dangerous.

Dan Gullett, an associate planner for the city, said the modifications will bring the ramp up to Caltrans standards.

“It would be a safer condition than the existing one,” Gullett said.

Caltrans engineers said the exit lane will become northbound but the off ramp will be lengthened, allow vehicles more time to slow before coming to the curve. There will also be increased signage so that drivers have ample warning of the exit and its curve.

Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers couldn’t comment on the specifics but said that Caltrans always puts safety ahead of any other concerns.

“Whatever we stand behind will be something that we believe is 100 percent safe,” Shivers said.

The city also believes the increase in noise is negligible. The pointed to the original environmental impact report which said a third lane would increase the noise by 2 dBA(a unit used to measure noise pollution) assuming no mitigation steps were taken.

The sound walls put up reduced noise by 4-6 dBA, a net gain for the area.

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