Friday, December 11, 2015

Santa Barbara Undertakes Infrastructure Improvements

Santa Barbara Undertakes Infrastructure Improvements

The seaside city of Santa Barbara puts a significant amount of resources toward the well-being of its residents. Whether through its support for children in the community, provisions for local nonprofits, or construction of beautiful parks for locals to enjoy, the city offers excellent amenities to those who call Santa Barbara home.

Infrastructure is often such a basic amenity in the average American city that many forget the importance of its role in allowing a place like Santa Barbara to run smoothly. Components of city infrastructure such as transportation, water quality, recreational facilities, and electrical systems all contribute to the city’s economy and its population’s ability to operate efficiently as they go about their daily lives.

While the need for an upgrade to infrastructure systems within the United States has been a notable point of debate in recent years, the local government of Santa Barbara has already taken steps to improve the amenities and physical systems accessed by the metro area’s nearly 400,000 residents in the following four sectors:

1. Transportation

In order to more easily navigate the streets of Santa Barbara, amenities such as roads, sidewalks, bridges, and traffic signals need to be maintained and upgraded as they age. In an effort to support the infrastructure of the city’s transportation systems, the local government has proposed and implemented a number of recent projects.

Highway at night

The Zone 2 Road Maintenance Project began in September 2015 with the goal of repairing distressed and deteriorated pavement near the Hitchcock area north of Mission Canyon. Additionally, roadways are now being resealed and parking lots resurfaced in an effort to improve transportation conditions for residents. The area of Goleta also recently approved the purchase and installation of $60,000 worth of LED traffic signals, taking a proactive approach to replacing the technology that has been in place for longer than its suggested lifespan. In replacing certain traffic lights with energy efficient models prior to their failure, Santa Barbara is taking a step to avoid dangerous emergency change-outs.

Other improvements in the area of transportation infrastructure include bridge improvement projects, which are currently underway for several structures that stretch across Mission Creek, including the Cabrillo Boulevard, Mason Street, and Cota Street bridges. Collectively, the new bridges will increase flood capacity in their areas, improve safety, and make room for more pedestrian areas and greater walkability.

2. Water Quality and Creek Restoration

Santa Barbara’s proximity to the ocean makes for a beautiful view, but it also requires residents to incorporate responsible water quality practices into their daily lives. Street runoff is a dominant factor in the pollution of local creeks and streams, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean where it can affect local marine life.

creek with clean water

In order to improve water quality in the area, city programs and local nonprofits focus on obtaining routine samples from water sources throughout Santa Barbara. The implementation of storm water drains and regular street sweeping programs help prevent runoff from becoming tainted with debris or other waste, while regulations established in the city’s Storm Water Management Program lay out guidelines for private residences and businesses to follow in order to avoid contaminating water sources.

Another crucial element to the infrastructure of water quality is the care of the creek systems that wind throughout the city. In addition to regular creek cleanup projects conducted by various charitable and governmental organizations, the city has commissioned multiple restoration projects in which participants remove invasive plants from creek banks, restore native vegetation, and remove unnecessary manmade barriers. In doing so, the city hopes to improve environmental health and save dwindling populations of fish native to the area, such as the Southern California steelhead trout.

3. Parks and Recreation

Early in 2015, the City of Santa Barbara outlined multiple proposed renovations to parks and community facilities in a six-year capital improvement program. Among the areas that the local government seeks to focus on are the replacement of the playground, park infrastructure safety, and renovations to buildings such as the Municipal Tennis Stadium.

tennis ball on court
Among the plans currently in the early stages of development in Santa Barbara are the proposed renovations to Cabrillo Ball Park, which includes improving the aesthetics, upgrading safety features, and potentially creating opportunities to play a wider variety of sports through the construction of basketball courts.

The city of Santa Barbara also focuses on caring for its existing parks through the practice of integrated pest management, an environmentally responsible practice that aims to keep parks pleasant for visitors while protecting the health of both human visitors and the land.

In order to improve fire safety on park land, city employees also practice wildland vegetation management in these areas, which reduces dry vegetation and establishes fire breaks throughout local parks and the homes that surround them.

4. Electrical Grid

The level of energy efficiency within a city’s electrical grid can affect how much its residents pay for power. Renovating an outdated grid can help reduce both the production and delivery costs of an inefficient system and can contribute to the conservation of resources.

electrical grid power lines
In April 2015, energy company Southern California Edison announced that it will be making $12 million worth of renovations to downtown Santa Barbara’s power grid over a two-year period. The process will involve replacing outdated and malfunctioning parts, placing distribution poles, and adding newer technology that will allow for remote-controlled amenities that can be used to return power in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.

By upgrading the electrical grid, professionals will also be able to minimize the city’s number of unexpected outages. Additionally, the technology will help these men and women to more easily identify and isolate the outages, leading to quicker response times and faster restoration of power.