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A makeshift memorial on Calle Real in El Encanto Heights marks the location where the body of Tina Veloz was found. The 14-year-old was taking a dangerous shortcut across Highway 101, in the background, when she was struck by a car and killed Monday night. (Eva Inbar photo)

Family and friends of Christina Veloz-Payne were holding a car wash Sunday afternoon to pay for the 14-year-old’s funeral. Known to her friends as Tina Veloz, she had attempted to run across Highway 101 in Goleta and was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Flowers, candles and tributes now mark the place where she was found three days later by a Caltrans maintenance crew.

Why, you might ask, would anyone attempt to run across the freeway?

Tina had been to the Labor Day fireworks show at Girsh Park and was returning to her house in the El Encanto Heights neighborhood on the other side of the freeway. Taking the Storke Road overpass would be a walk of more than two miles, but Tina knew a shorter way. If she walked through the Jubilee Christian Church parking lot and continued on a well-used path across a field, then crossed the railroad tracks, she could see her neighborhood right ahead, with only the freeway and a six-foot fence in between. Locals know a place a little to the east where the fence can be breached. It would be just a sprint and then a short walk home. She never made it.

The California Highway Patrol has said it has never heard of people trying to run across the freeway, but the agency did know of people crawling under the freeway through a drainage ditch. I don’t know which of the two scares me more.

The city of Goleta recognizes the desperate need for more places to cross the Great Barrier that bisects the city, aka Highway 101. If Measure A passes in November, the city will have some money to build an additional overpass. Current plans envision this new overpass about a mile to the west of Camino Real Marketplace, however, near Ellwood Station Road, where it would be of little help to bicyclists and pedestrians who want to go to the shopping center. In the 1990s, when the Camino Real Marketplace was built, the developer put up some money toward an overcrossing that was then called the Ellwood Bike Bridge. It was to connect the marketplace with the neighborhood north of the highway and double as a safe route to Dos Pueblos High School. This bridge was to land near Pacific Oaks Road, behind Jubilee Christian Church on the south side, and near Calaveras Avenue on the north side. This is exactly the path that Tina Veloz took in her ill-fated attempt to go home. The bridge was never built.

On the north side, between Calaveras and Daffodil Lane, there is a strip of land that was dedicated to the bike bridge landing. It is still vacant. On the south side, where Tina Veloz must have walked, the land is also vacant and still waiting for the bridge.

Eva Inbar
Santa Barbara