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Meeting Set for Wednesday to Gather Traffic Safety Ideas for Area Near Santa Ynez High School

The death of a student who was struck by a minivan near the campus has prompted Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District leaders to schedule a meeting to assess what can be done to make the Highway 246 and Refugio Road intersection safer.

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Little Theater on the Santa Ynez high school campus.

Superintendent Scott Cory said the purpose is to capture and compile safety concerns regarding the busy intersection near the high school campus.

He hopes to appoint a focus group to work with the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department and Caltrans to explore the suggestions offered at the meeting. 

“Both the short- and long-term solutions lie in a multipronged solution involving education of the public and students about safe driving practices, enhanced enforcement of traffic laws and possible physical improvements to the intersection,” Cory said. “I believe that we will wind up with a safer intersection on the other side of this process.”

Santa Ynez freshman Carina Velazquez died hours after she was struck by a vehicle as she walked home from an after-school activity March 26.

Greta Garofallou, 83, of Lompoc was driving the minivan west on Highway 246 when it struck the 15-year-old girl just before 7 p.m., according to the CHP.

Days later, crews significantly pruned or remove shrubbery on the northwest corner of the intersection to allow better visibility for Refugio Road traffic turning onto westbound Highway 246.  

Cory said the improvements were made although the corner was not considered a factor in the accident.

While the accident that led to Carina’s death remains under investigation, the loss prompted discussions about making the area safer for pedestrians.

“The community has been very responsive to the situation, demonstrating a strong desire to get involved in order to be a part of the solution,” Cory said.

For several weeks, the high school website has had a message from Principal Mark Swanitz urging people to email safety improvement suggestions to Cory and noting the district had launched discussions with state and county officials about boosting pedestrian safety around the campus.

“While it’s too early to tell what might result of those conversations, nothing is off the table — including the long-hoped-for possibility of a footbridge, sidewalks, curbs, railings, speed limit reductions, changes in signage, LED-lit crosswalks, and more,” Swanitz said.

The SYVUHS Parent Teacher/Student Association will host the meeting while Cory will serve as facilitator.

Elizabeth Farnum, a representative from Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr’s office, is set to attend, he added.

Cory said CHP Lt. Kurt Kruse, sheriff’s Lt. Shawn O’Grady and Caltrans officials have been responsive to the situation.

This is the latest traffic safety effort undertaken in the Santa Ynez Valley. A grassroots group has targeted safety improvements for Highway 154, especially near the intersection with Roblar Avenue, and formed a Facebook group to unite those concerned about traffic-related trouble spots in the valley. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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