It has been a year since 15-year-old Sergio Romero was killed crossing Milpas Street, an incident that caused the Eastside community to demand that the City of Santa Barbara make much-needed improvements to the street.
Romero was killed after a truck driver going more than 50 miles per hour hit him as he was crossing the street at dusk on Oct. 7, 2011.
Many in the working-class neighborhoods surrounding Milpas walk the area daily, and it seems that city officials heard their concerns about cars moving too quickly through the area.
This week, orange cones popped up all along the busiest length of the street, and crews filed in to work on the changes the city says will make the corridor safer for walking people.
Those changes include creating a turn lane from Cota Street to Canon Perdido, which will reduce two lanes going in each direction down to one. Flashing beacons aiming to get the attention of drivers as pedestrians cross also will be installed at the Ortega and Yanonali cross streets of Milpas.
Those changes come after a year of public meetings, many of which were fraught with emotion, with some in the neighborhood calling for a traffic signal at the Ortega intersection where Romero was killed. But city traffic engineers said that intersection didn’t meet the requirements for a light, and the council unanimously approved the restriping and flashing beacons in May.
The city expects to conduct pavement repairs, slurry seal and striping until Nov. 9, and crews will install the pedestrian flashing beacons between Nov. 26 and Dec. 14.
The Romero family recently gathered to remember Sergio on the anniversary of his death, and Sergio’s father, Armando, said Tuesday that he and his family are grateful for the changes along the street.
If a flashing light had existed last fall when Sergio had crossed the street, “I feel certain he would be alive,” Romero said.
Romero said that intersection is used daily by children going to and from schools in the area, and that the opportunity to keep other children safe is something he and his family are thankful for.
Mayor Helene Schneider said Tuesday that she was impressed and grateful for the dialogue that took place through the Eastside community on the issue.
“I think the council made the right decisions earlier this year, which was to fund and expedite the construction timeline on these needed safety improvements along the Milpas corridor, while also complying within state and federal transportation code requirements,” she said.
Eva Inbar, president of the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation, also commended the city for the changes.
“This is extremely fast, it’s been about a year,” she said. “I really appreciate the special effort [the city] is making.”
She said the next step will be to hear from residents how the changes are working.