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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 12:31 pm | A Few Clouds 59º


Residents Speak Out About Traffic Safety Near Santa Ynez High School

Dozens of concerns and suggestions arise from a brainstorming session with the superintendent

Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Superintendent Scott Cory moderate a meeting on traffic safety Wednesday night in the school’s Little Theater.
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District Superintendent Scott Cory moderate a meeting on traffic safety Wednesday night in the school’s Little Theater. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Concerned about the morning traffic around Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, Patti Stewart doesn’t allow her children to walk to the campus.

“People say I’m crazy,” she said, but added that she has armed her freshmen about the need to remain hyper vigilant.

“You have to cross that street like a ninja,” she said she told her children.

Personal stories of traffic troubles and a laundry list of suggestions for improving safety around the campus arose during a 90-minute meeting Wednesday night moderated by district Superintendent Scott Cory.

Ideas ranged from the costly — foot bridges or underground tunnels — to the manageable — more safety lights and signs, or what Cory summarized as additions to make the intersection “visually loud” to drivers. Other ideas included increased education of students and improved traffic flow on campus along with beefed-up enforcement and lower speed limits. 

“There are no bad ideas at this point,” Cory said at the start of the brainstorming sessions while noting that some ideas may seem reasonable while others may seem unreasonable.

Cory had already received many ideas before Wednesday night’s meeting and heard more from the crowd of approximately 40 people who attended the session, and shared a nonstop list of concerns and suggestions. 

With the list compiled, Cory said he intends to create a smaller task force to tackle the ideas with state and county officials to make the improvements a reality.

One problem, which Cory said school officials are aware of and are working to stem, is the flow of students and adults darting across busy Highway 246 to El Rancho Market. Security officers are positioned at key times to direct the pedestrians to cross at the traffic light. 

“We’re trying to ramp up all of those pieces in the short-term as we look for a long-term solution as well,” Cory said. 

SYHS safety
Among those who attended Wednesday night's traffic safety meeting regarding Santa Ynez Valley Union High School were school board member Bruce Porter, left, and Rona Barrett, right, who spearheaded the development of the Golden Inn & Village across from the campus. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Spurred by the death of Carina Velazquez, who was struck by a vehicle while she walked across Highway 246 on March 26, the traffic safety discussions focused on the entire area around the campus. 

In addition to physical improvements, Cory said he expected solutions would include more education of both students and community members. 

“In talking to the Highway Patrol, 90 percent of all the citations that are written in the valley, 90 percent go to us,” he said, referring to local residents versus tourists.

A distracted driving presentation for seniors is planned, and school officials are already looking at more events for the next school year. 

Pedestrian safety measures in Santa Maria and the South Coast also were cited as possible solutions, such red lights for all vehicles to allow pedestrians to cross or a system to allow pedestrians a head start of a few seconds before vehicle traffic gets a green light.

Ninth-grade student Zane St. Andre Jackson said he and his mom had discussed more signage signaling the upcoming school zone and creating a gradual decrease in the speed limit near the campus.

"It just feels so odd slowing down from 55, suddenly, to 25," he said.

Chris Burtness, a school board member, mentioned recently seeing a speed indicator sign permanently placed near a San Luis Obispo County elementary school, flashing if a driver is going too fast.

“Boy, it catches your attention,” she said. “If you’re in a school zone and supposed to be going 25, and you’re going to faster, it lets you know.”

The busy intersection of Highway 246 and Refugio Road is only going to see more vehicle and pedestrian traffic with the addition of the Golden Inn & Village now under construction on the final empty corner of the intersection. The Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA and a private school sit on the other two corners at that intersection.

School grounds workers already removed some bushes at the intersection of Highway 246 and Refugio Road. Additionally, a white fence now sits on the corner, a recent addition to ensure bicyclists or pedestrians don’t inadvertently fall into the culvert.

Currently, only one crosswalk is placed at the intersection, but Cory said he had talked to state officials about adding striping to the other three segments.

Some parents asked for more sidewalks. Another suggestion centered on extending the incomplete bike path to Santa Ynez. One idea focused on adding barriers on the corner to ensure vehicle traffic makes a wider turn and doesn’t cut the corner. 

“That’s a lot of amazing suggestions,” Cory said near the end of the meeting.

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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