Mission Canyon Bridge discussion spans across structural changes and roads for the Santa Barbara Landmark | local news
The historic Mission Canyon Bridge in Santa Barbara is one of the city’s visible treasures.
The stone arch bridge and ‘stegosaurus’ were built in 1891. It survived the 1925 earthquake, and was expanded in 1930. A pedestrian bridge was added nearby in 1929.
But today, the bridge is showing its age. According to a city-sponsored study, the bridge is “functionally obsolete” and in need of repair.
Does not meet current seismic standards. In the event of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, the stone walls would be expected to loosen and force the collapse of the stone arch over Mission Creek.
Meanwhile, city officials have strong concerns about Mission Canyon Road above. They want to make the winding road near the bridge safer for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
So the question is, how does Santa Barbara upgrade the bridge, without affecting its historic nature, and improve the road above? Or should you try at all?
It’s Santa Barbara’s problem, where historical preservation is in conflict with sophisticated and modern lifestyles.
If you ask Lanny Ebenstein, an economics lecturer at UC Santa Barbara, a former member of the Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education and a longtime resident of Mission Canyon, there’s no reason to change the bridge dramatically.
He said, “What an abomination.” “There is no other way to talk about this. It is hated.”
The city of Santa Barbara is considering three proposals to make the winding Mission Canyon Road safer for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. (Santa Barbara city photo)
Ebenstein spoke at a meeting of the Historic Landmarks Committee on Wednesday, when the proposal for the bridge and road was presented to the committee to review the concept. The committee considered three different ideas for the bridge and three different ideas for the road over it.
According to Ebenstein, there is no convincing evidence that there are traffic or safety concerns on the winding road, and that safety is a “very low traffic priority” for the city.
“The idea that one of California’s most important historic bridges, in Santa Barbara, is going to be demolished for traffic reasons, is not true,” he said.
The commissioners mostly agreed. The issue is in the early stages of planning, so there has been no formal vote or procedure.
The committee expressed concern about changing the bridge frequently while noting that it should be safer for pedestrians and cyclists, including the need for a pedestrian path between Mission Santa Barbara, at 2201 Laguna Street, and the nearby Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. In 2559 Puesta del Sol.
The commissioners also weren’t inclined to alter the rustic, meandering nature of Mission Canyon Road, instead expressing an interest in low-impact visual deterrence that would convince drivers to slow down.
In the end, they turned towards strengthening the existing bridge with as little alteration as possible.
“It is seen as a very valuable resource for the region and part of the entire existing cultural landscape,” said committee chair Anthony Grombin. “Maybe we leave it as we want the bridge as it is in terms of design and shape.”
The city has submitted three proposals for the roads, with a list of pros and cons. Under Proposition A, the road and bridge would be widened equally on both sides, to increase the driver’s visibility, with 5-foot bike lanes and 6-foot pedestrian paths in each direction.
Under Proposition B, the road will be widened, the bridge will be rehabilitated or replaced to increase driver visibility, 5-foot bike lanes will be added, and a 6-foot pedestrian path will be constructed on the eastern side of the road. A 10-foot wide pedestrian bridge will be added on the west side.
Under Proposition C, the bridge will be rehabilitated or replaced, a 6-foot path will be constructed on the east side, 5-foot bike lanes will be added, and minor road alignment improvements will be made.
One bridge proposal calls for the arch to be widened and the other calls for two arches to stabilize the bridge and wall.
All three projects will require sycamore tree removal.
Karl Hutterer, a board member of the Mission Heritage Trails Association and retired executive director of the Natural History Museum, has lived near Mission Canyon Bridge for more than two decades.
“I am so familiar with the corridor’s problems and prevalent concerns that many people use it to express safety,” he told the commission.
He also noted that he is “strongly committed” to historical preservation.
“I am grateful that the city has accepted responsibility for finding a solution to what has been a nagging problem of aligning historic preservation with the needs of a population that has been growing exponentially for nearly 75 years,” said Hutterer. “The only solution I find unacceptable is to do nothing.”
The Mission Heritage Trails Association has for the past decade been supporting safety improvements and preservation within the Mission Canyon Trail. The nonprofit led efforts to rehabilitate the bridge and create a safer road.
Commissioner Michael Drury, while supporting the expansion of the walkway on the east side of the bridge, said the less impact the city had on the road, the better.
“Realigning or smoothing the curves at Mission Creek Bridge would make it just a racetrack,” he said.
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