The Brisco Road on- and off-ramps on Highway 101 will reopen in mid-December, after being closed for almost a year to test how traffic in Arroyo Grande would be impacted if the ramps were permanently closed.
The Arroyo Grande City Council on Tuesday voted 4-1, with Mayor Jim Hill dissenting, to reopen the northbound ramps, after Caltrans said keeping the ramps closed indefinitely was unfeasible. Hill said he could not support reopening the ramps because the closed ramps have improved traffic and emergency response times in the area. He instead unsuccessfully advocated to keep the ramps closed until June.
The city has been pursuing changes for the historically problematic interchange for about 15 years — something that is expected to take even longer now that Measure J, the county’s self-help transportation tax, seems to have failed, and a source of funding is years away.
In March 2015, the council officially selected two alternatives to be reviewed.
The first would close the northbound ramps permanently, with no replacement. That option would include about $14 million in improvements to the overpass and ramps at Grand Avenue, add an extra lane to the northbound off-ramp and left-turn lane and align the southbound ramps. It also would widen the ramps at Camino Mercado.
The second alternative, called 4-C, would relocate the Brisco northbound ramps to Rodeo Drive and cycle traffic through the city’s first roundabout at West Branch Street and Rodeo Drive, among other highway adjustments. This alternative could cost about $23 million.
Caltrans required the city to choose two alternatives to take through the review process, though many have called the second alternative expensive and unnecessary.
The ramps closed in late 2015 and were expected to reopen in January 2016. That was extended through much of this year, however, to give time for a traffic study that would examine the impacts on circulation throughout the city.
After some initial pushback, many residents expressed satisfaction with the decision to temporarily close the ramps, saying it helped alleviate traffic in the area.
Most expected the ramps to be kept closed until the city could move forward on the anticipated updates, but Caltrans has since said that will not be possible because actual construction is still years away, according to city staff.
Several council members on Tuesday night also expressed concerns with queuing — or cars stuck in lines on the highway ramps — at the Grand Avenue interchange, where much of the Brisco traffic has been diverted.