Arroyo Grande’s Brisco Road ramps could stay closed until at least July

The Highway 101 on-ramp at Brisco Road in Arroyo Grande.
The Highway 101 on-ramp at Brisco Road in Arroyo Grande. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The Highway 101 northbound on- and off-ramps at Brisco Road in Arroyo Grande likely won’t be reopening at the start of the new year.

The city of Arroyo Grande has applied to Caltrans for a six-month extension of its temporary ramp closure at Brisco Road, at the direction of the City Council and after urging from a number of residents asking the city to keep the ramps closed while the city prepares the environmental documents for a long-awaited overhaul of the Brisco Road interchange.

“People are highly emotional about this area for a number of reasons, and you can understand why,” said resident Alicia Lara, who lives in the Royal Oaks neighborhood near Brisco Road. “There’s a lot of passion for this, and what you need to do is consider the good of the whole here.”

Lara said she supports keeping the ramps closed.

The ramps were originally scheduled to be closed between Sept. 29 and Dec. 7, but two days of rain delayed the closure, and the council later extended it to Jan. 11.

At a special meeting of the City Council on Dec. 17, the council unanimously voted to extend the closure by six months to July 11 to give time for the results of an ongoing traffic study to be released, and to save money on closing and reopening the ramps if the traffic study finds that permanently closing the ramp would benefit the area.

The ramp closure comes as part of a citywide traffic study, meant to study circulation patterns and the impact of the closure on other ramps along the Arroyo Grande stretch of Highway 101, with the ultimate goal of deciding how to fix the traffic issues associated with the Brisco Road interchange.

The city of Arroyo Grande has debated how best to fix traffic congestion at the highly-used interchange for close to 15 years.

In March, the council once again took up the discussion and officially selected two alternatives to take through the public review process.

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.

“When we started this process, 4C was doable,” Councilman Tim Brown said at the Dec. 17 meeting. “But now, it is so far from doable I don’t even want to talk about it.”

While both alternatives are still being reviewed, a number of residents have expressed support for keeping the Brisco Road ramps closed.

According to city staff, 195 people submitted comments on the project to brisco@arroyogrande.org. Of those, about 73 percent favored keeping the ramps closed.

“The closure has made what was once a constant bottleneck and traffic nightmare, a smooth running intersection with little or no waiting,” wrote resident Vivian Krug Cotton in an email to the City Council. “I use the freeway on- and off-ramps on both sides of the closure every day and have not noticed a negative impact on them. I have not spoken to anyone who is in favor of reopening the ramps. I urge you to keep the closures in place.”

The closure is still pending Caltrans approval. If approved, the cost of maintaining the temporary closure would likely be “infrequent and minimal,” according to a city staff report.

A report on the closure and the traffic study are scheduled for Feb. 23.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie