By Janene Scully
Noozhawk North County Editor
Vehicles whizzing by on Highway 246 in Buellton drove home the need for pedestrian-safety improvements as officials gathered to mark the start of a long-awaited project.
Mayor Holly Sierra and other elected officials and staff gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 26 to celebrate the start of a new project at Sycamore Drive near the western edge of the city.
“This is going to be so cool,” Sierra said.
Vehicles speeding by on the highway that links the Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys prompted efforts to increase pedestrian safety and slow traffic traveling along the roadway that serves as the main route through Buellton.
“It’s almost like a runway for these cars,” Sierra said, recalling working at the Post Office and seeing vehicles racing along Highway 246.
The Sycamore Drive project united the city of Buellton, the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments and Caltrans, culminating nearly a decade of efforts to improve the intersection heavily used by parents and children walking to access a school in the neighborhood north of the highway or a park south of the highway.
Gathered for a short ceremony were state and county legislative representatives, along with school leaders, showing the broad effort to make the project happen.
“None of this happens with any one person or one group that takes charge. It all has to do with creating effective partnerships,” City Manager Scott Wolfe said, noting he was likely the newest person involved in the project since he joined Buellton’s staff in July.
Project features call for narrowing the roadway by adding flashing beacons activated by a pedestrian when crossing, a new high-visibility crosswalk, extended curbs and new handicap ramps.
But the mayor is especially excited about the addition of lighting that will be activated by pedestrians to increase their visibility to drivers.
“It’s going to be really, really nice,” she said.
“Eventually I would love to have a median there, and we are working on that,” she said. “But to get this from Caltrans, I am beyond the moon right now. … This is just wonderful.”
In all, the pedestrian safety project received more than $750,000 in grant funding from two sources, including Measure A’s North County Safe Routes of School Program.
Measure A, which is administered by SBCAG, is a countywide sales-tax hike for road and other transportation related projects.
Funding also came from the highly competitive Caltrans Active Transportation Program, which received 456 applications with only 50 selected.
Completion of the improvements should take approximately six months, officials said Monday. Future plans call for other safety projects for Highway 246 through Buellton. “We look forward to seeing not only this project but new projects like it in the future,” Wolfe added.