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Michael Bennett: Improving Neighborhood Access is a Goleta Priority

We can't bring Christina Veloz-Payne back, but the Goleta community can come together to prevent another tragedy.

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Christina Veloz-Payne, who died trying to cross Highway 101 to get home on Labor Day.

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Michael Bennett
Since this senseless tragedy, there has been a great deal of discussion and some measure of finger-pointing about the lack of adequate pedestrian access in western Goleta over the freeway.

Improving access in town is an issue that the Goleta City Council is well aware of. Indeed, it has been identified as a priority since the adoption of the city’s General Plan in October 2006 and it is now included in the city’s Capital Improvement Program as a priority project.

Looking forward, we have several choices. We can focus on what did and did not happen many years ago, or we can focus on what our community can do now to address this issue.

The Goleta City Council is aware that there is a need to improve pedestrian, bike and local traffic access over Highway 101. Just last month, the City Council authorized $300,000 to begin the evaluation process of determining the location of an overcrossing in western Goleta. A new overcrossing will provide safer pedestrian and bike access as well as improve neighborhood traffic circulation.

In addition, as part of Measure A, which will be decided by the voters on Nov. 4, $7 million is dedicated specifically to a new Highway 101 overcrossing in Goleta. This project has been on our radar screen for several years. Measure A, if approved, will help enable the overcrossing to become a reality.

Let’s be clear. This overcrossing is not only about traffic counts, design standards, growth or no growth; it is also about public convenience, safety and connecting our neighborhoods. Our community needs to know that it can play at Girsh Park, go to Dos Pueblos High School, shop at Camino Real Marketplace or throw a Frisbee at Evergreen Open Space, and be able to get home safely and in a timely manner. We can not bring Christina back, but we can try to prevent another child risking his or her life to get home by taking a shortcut.

Working together as a community is what Goleta does best. And it is together that our community can and will address this important issue.

Michael T. Bennett is mayor of Goleta.

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