In response to neighborhood concerns, the Santa Barbara City Council decided Tuesday night to move forward with a plan to tackle traffic and pedestrian safety issues in the Eastside neighborhood.
Improvements to two Milpas Street intersections are in the works, but Eastside residents have expressed concerns about speeding, a lack of lighting, a lack of sidewalks and unsafe crossings in other parts of the neighborhood.
Parents in attendance at Tuesday night’s council meeting said there are many schools in the area, so children are constantly walking to and from class, adding another element of danger.
The City Council unanimously approved a Neighborhood Transportation Management Plan, a comprehensive plan that will pursue immediate “quick fix” improvements and explore longer-term capital projects.
City staff members will gather input from Eastside residents in public meetings, analyze collision data and come up with possible solutions. Funding will be the biggest challenge, since any capital projects are likely to cost at least $500,000, according to transportation manager Browning Allen. Staff noted that the city already underfunds its streets maintenance program by millions of dollars annually.
Allen said projects could get money from the streets fund, grants or Community Development Block Grants if more of the capital funds are allocated to city projects.
Other neighborhood groups have asked for improvements, too, but the Eastside has “been on the queue for a long time,” Public Works Director Christine Andersen said.
The death of Santa Barbara teen Sergio Romero, who was hit and killed crossing Milpas Street in October 2011, isn’t the only incident that brings the issue to the forefront, she added.
The Coalition for Sustainable Transportation has been involved with this effort since January 2011, project director Caitlin Carlson said. In a COAST video shown to the council, many mothers talked about their concerns — cars speeding and not paying attention to pedestrians, dark streets in areas without any street lighting, and children taking routes to school where they have to cross without stop signs or lights.
At a recent meeting, the city’s Neighborhood Advisory Council supported prioritizing the Eastside for a pedestrian safety plan, member Teresa Pena said.
COAST president Eva Inbar said there are six schools within a few miles, so there are thousands of children walking to school on those streets.
Cleveland Elementary School Principal Cynthia White said half of her 425 students walk to school along the fast, dangerous Salinas Street corridor.
“I’ve lived on the Eastside for 43 years, and I don’t feel safe when I’m walking around the neighborhood,” Lupe Gonzales said during public comment. “I used to feel safe 10 or 20 years ago, but not lately (because of speeding).”
The council already approved projects on Milpas Street that will be completed by the end of November. Pedestrian-activated rapid flashing lights are being installed at the Milpas and Ortega streets intersection and the road will be restriped to allow for a raised median.
At Milpas and Yanonali streets, the council approved installing overhead-mounted pedestrian-activated flashing lights and removing the southbound bus stop to improve sightlines for both vehicles and pedestrians.