Few trails in the entire state have retained their pre-automobile charm as well as Los Carneros Road, which connects Isla Vista with the rest of the known world. Today this scenic route, fit only for horses (and strong ones at that), rolls like the Colorado River rapids by desolate dry empty lots, a motorcycle track, a new housing tract and the dead bodies of cars with cancerous shock-absorbers.
County Road Department officials blame the condition of the road on the Goleta Valley Water District which, in turn, explains its actions as a response to the road department.
Last fall the road was ripped up to install water lines and other utilities for the new housing project adjacent to the road. The road was then temporarily patched but the process of “compaction” (water compacting earth) resulted in those patches sinking below the level of the rest of the road.
According to local mechanics, such rutted road conditions are not recommended for playing violin in your Lincoln Continental.
Los Carneros will remain in this condition until the wet season dries up. Resurfacing now would be subject to compaction which would leave the road as it was before the resurfacing.
Why then was the road torn up when it could not be repaired for months?
The Goleta Valley Water Department wanted to install their water lines before the road was resurfaced by the county — an event that was scheduled for the very near future as a regular maintenance measure.
But procrastination over right-of-way grants by both the University and the road department delayed the water department’s plans until this fall. Water officials decided to undertake the pipe-laying work at the time in order to beat the resurfacing. Road officials allowed Los Carneros to be torn up at that time despite the approaching wet season because they “didn’t realize it would rain this hard.”
Complicating the matter further is the difficulty that the water department has had in placing the water lines. The contractor could not get the correct pipe fittings from his supplier in Salt Lake City. Those he finally received did not meet his specifications, and he has since had a difficult time acquiring those that will meet requirements.
As soon as the lines are laid and the weather warms, Los Carneros Road will be resurfaced “expeditiously,” according to the engineering office of the Goleta Valley water department.
But more than just an expeditious resurfacing is planned for the well-traveled thoroughfare.
In 1968 federal legislation created TOPICS — Traffic Operations Projects to Increase Capacity and Safety — for chosen urban areas, and Los Carneros Road is within one of those areas.
County and federal funds will be used to widen the existing road at the intersection of El Colegio and Los Carneros, narrowing somewhat near Hollister where the road will be re-aligned.
Also included in the project is a bike and pedestrian underpass — similar to those on campus running parallel to El Colegio and dipping under Los Carneros. Construction won’t be completed until at least six months after July 1 when the tunnel project is opened to bidders.
In May signal contracts will be offered for Los Carneros, La Patera and Storke Roads, and parts of Patterson. The signals are scheduled to be operative by Fall, 1972. The City of Santa Barbara will throw the coins into the hat — along with the county ad federal government — to fund this project.
Meanwhile Isla Vista waits thirsting.