Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Sunday, August 10, 2008

How do you lose $1 million? CalTrans Can....

Here's a press release from the Friends of the Bridge....Sara

Caltrans has lost the $1,000,000 that had been conditionally approved two years ago to fund its highly controversial proposal to construct unsightly barriers on the Cold Spring Bridge along Scenic Highway 154 near San Marcos Pass.

During the past year the barriers proposal has drawn widespread public opposition from residents and civic organizations in Santa Barbara County based on evidence that Caltrans has utilized false information and flawed analysis it its efforts to justify the proposal as a high-priority suicide prevention measure.

According to Marc McGinnes, a spokesperson for Friends of the Bridge, one of ten citizens groups opposing the Caltrans proposal, “It has long been clear that the barriers proposal is a gross boondoggle, but Caltrans has been able to wave all that money in the faces of local elected officials who should have taken action months ago to stop the project. Unless such officials are now prepared to act decisively to stop the projection which over $500,000 has been spent in staff support costs-- they are likely to seen as undeserving stewards of the kind of funds that they are asking citizens to give them in November when voting on Measure A.”

Caltrans was notified by the California Transportation Commission in late June that the $1 million that had been conditionally approved for the barriers proposal in September 2006 would no longer be available due to "transportation safety priorities statewide and the limited amount of state transportation funding".

According to documents posted on the website of Friends of the Bridge (, the conditionally approved funds had been diverted from taxpayer funds earmarked for “collision reduction safety improvements.” Project opponents, which include the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, have challenged the diversion of funds earmarked for that purpose, citing the fact that traffic safety problems along Highway 154 are far more serious (an average of 4 deaths a year in recent years in traffic collisions)than the problem of occasional suicidal behavior on the Cold Spring Bridge (an average of slightly less than one jumper a year over the 44 year history of the bridge and just one in the last three years).

Project opponents will appear before the County Board of Supervisors on August 19 and the directors of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments on August 21 at their meetings in Santa Barbara to request that public hearings be set to consider testimony and evidence concerning a formal request to Caltrans that it promptly withdraw and abandon its deeply flawed and fiscally irresponsible barriers proposal.

Other community organizations that have called upon Caltrans to abandon its barriers proposal include Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, Citizens Planning Association, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Pearl Chase Society, Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, Los Padres ForestWatch, Womens Environmental Watch, and Santa Ynez Valley Alliance.

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Anonymous eyes a rolling said...

A representative from Caltrans denied in a comment on Edhat that this story was accurate.

8/10/2008 6:34 AM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

This from Marc McGinnis by email

It seems that Caltrans is claiming that the project remains fully funded,
and you have most likely been contacted with a request from Caltrans that
you not do a story on the matter. Since Caltrans' claim is not true, such
a decision would be unwarranted.

Kindly see my comment in the link below about this matter which makes
reference to a second and earlier letter to Caltrans from the Commission
letting it know that the funds that had been conditionally approved in 2006
were no longer secure:


8/10/2008 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Poor messenger said...

Dear Sara---sorry to see you too have swallowed the McGinness kool-aid. I am not a rep of Cal-Trans, the County or any official agency. Just someone who cringes when I see otherwise legitimate blogs post spin as "fact". I think it detracts from the increasing legitimacy of the internet. And what Marc Mc is spinning is only spin. too bad he still has an audience. There are and may be more legitimate issues with this project, Cal Trans, like w/ any public policy debate. But there are legitimate channels and opportunities and quite easy ways to fact-check. What many public officials know but bite their tongue before saying is that Marc Mc. has turned this into a very nasty, mean-spirited and quite inaccurate campaign of one. Yes, he received letters from organizations who only listened to him and did not do all the research. and there can be legitimate opposition to this project. But Marc as the cheerleader and messenger for the opposition has only diminished any value to the legitimate opposition. and this latest "press release" from him and his distorted facts just cements that belief.

8/10/2008 10:48 AM  
Anonymous eyes a rolling said...

Food fight! Thanks Marc Mcginnes.

8/10/2008 12:04 PM  
Anonymous Eyes Wide Open said...

A representative from CalTrans denied the story was true but then offered no facts to show that the funds really were there nor where the funds came from.

The full history and details from others, including the Edhat editor (EDONE) are all there in the long series of comments at that Edhat news posting.

This "just trust me" form of information and debate by CalTrans does not pass the LOL or bull-feces test.

8/10/2008 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Leave the dog alone said...

talk about the tail wagging the dog....sheesh.....and we complain about the News-Press manufacturing news???!!?!?!?!?

8/10/2008 3:59 PM  
Anonymous eyes a rolling said...

Thanks Marc Mcginnes for introducing bull-feces into the discussion!

8/10/2008 9:06 PM  
Blogger Sara De la Guerra said...

let's watch the language guys :) points for creativity!

poor messenger seems to think that it's up to me to act like a news organization and check every fact and make decisions about them as to whether they are published....the reason why I posted this as a press release is that it allows us to think and decide for ourselves. It also creates discussion....give me another opinion and I will post that too.

8/11/2008 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Marc McGinnes said...

It is a fact that the California Transportation Commission has twice written letters to Caltrans (the first in May 2008, and the second a month later) concerning the $1 million in SHOPP funds that had been conditionally approved for the flawed barriers proposal in September 2006:

"[G]iven transportation safety priorities statewide and the limited amount of state transportation funding, the Commission recommends that alternative sources of funding be secured for this project."

Internal Caltrans documents show that such SHOPP funds are for "capital" or construction costs that would be available in 2010 if (very big if) the proposal withstood public scrutiny and environmental review.

So, the letters from the Commission came as absolutely horrible news to Caltrans, since Caltrans had already burned through more than $500,000 in taxpayers money for the projected $2.5 million plus "support costs' budgeted for the project (staff salaries, etc.).

Can anyone seriously doubt that the Commission's two letters did not clearly convey to Caltrans the intended message that it could no longer consider as "secured" the funds had been conditionally approved two years earlier? I think not.

So why would Caltrans continue to insist that this project is "fully funded"? To me and most people who have been following this matter carefully for the past year, this is yet another example of Caltrans' deplorable practice of resorting to misinformation in order to push this deeply flawed and fiscally irresponsible proposal.

It remains for Caltrans to learn that it cannot get away with doing business in this way in our community.

For the facts about this case that should eventually lead to the withdrawal and abandonment of the barriers boondoggle, please go to where you can find the May and June 2008 letters and many other documents that reveal the real story about this gross attempt to misuse limited traffic safety funds in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

Do not take my word or that of any Caltrans official for this. Instead, take the time to carefully look at and evaluate the meaning of the many documents that reveal the facts of this case. It seems clear to me that this is something that Caltrans and its misguided supporters are hoping that not many people will do.

I hope that you will be one of the citizens of our community who disappoint their expectations and their irresponsible proposal.

Thank you.

P.S. I did not introduce to this conversation anything about bull-anything, "eyes a rolling" (see above). I figure that the facts and documents serve far better to keep the conversation focused and productive. I recommend that you give it a try.

8/11/2008 2:18 PM  

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