By Janene Scully

Noozhawk North County Editor

In response to numerous crashes on Highway 154 causing deaths and critical injuries, the board of the region’s transportation agency has appointed a special safety committee.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments board of directors voted unanimously to appoint a Highway 154 Safety Committee to address concerns along the two-lane route linking the Santa Ynez Valley and the South Coast. 

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said residents inundated her office with emails, along with a petition signed by 2,000 people expressing concerns after recent crashes including one that claimed the lives of a Solvang mother and her two young children.

A working group of local and state officials convened in mid-November to discuss the engineering, education and enforcement efforts, along with the crash history, before holding a public forum, set for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in Solvang Veterans Hall, Hartmann said.

“We think this is of great importance to the Santa Ynez Valley, but it’s also of countywide significance,” Hartmann said, adding that the highway is used by commuters between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara and beyond.

“We’ve had a lot of people giving ideas and suggestions about how we might make this safer so this would be a forum to do that,” she added.

Due to the road’s regional significance, Hartmann said, it seemed most appropriate to establish the committee under SBCAG. 

Hartmann said research is being done to determine how dangerous Highway 154 is in comparison to Highway 1 and Highway 166.

“I do think it would be a case study, and then we could look at the more dangerous roads and begin to broaden this group or at least the way we’re approaching it, which is bringing all the different agencies and entities together to consider what can be done and even develop a list of projects,” Hartmann said. 

The new committee comes as SBCAG looks at the revising the role of Highway 154 Truck Safety Committee, appointed 10 years ago after truck traveling on Highway 154 crashed into building after losing its brakes. The committee has been dormant recently. 

“I’ve been getting emails, the phone’s been ringing off the hook,” Buellton Mayor Holly Sierra said about Highway 154. “People want to know what we’re going to do about it.”

Two SBCAG members representing the Lompoc Valley — Fourth District county Supervisor Peter Adam and Lompoc Councilman Jim Mosby — asked why the effort focused on one highway.

“I know Highway 1 out of Lompoc is a significant issue,” Mosby said, asking if that roadway between Lompoc and Highway 101 should have a similar effort. He added he believes it was “one of the most dangerous roads in the county.”

Noting that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” Mosby said he wanted to make sure other areas of importance aren’t left out of safety efforts.

“I think we need to treat everybody equally, the same, wherever they are,” he said. 

“I’m failing to see the need for a specific committee on that highway because we should be aware of where the hot spots are countywide. That should be what SBCAG does, right?” Adam added. “We should understand what all the fatality and other accident rates are in different places, and be able to take action on those as a board rather than trying to have it off into individual spots.”

The board also designated committee members — Hartmann and Second District Supervisor Gregg Hart, since the road fall in their district, and three local mayors, Goleta’s Paula Perrotte, Solvang’s Ryan Toussaint and Sierra from Buellton. 

Minutes earlier, California Highway Patrol Capt. Cindy Pontes and Officer Jonathan Gutierrez gave a presentation on recent “Safe on All Roads” efforts aimed at education and enforcement by officers based in Buellton and Santa Barbara 

“When we were asked to come to this meeting, we had really good statistics,” Pontes said, adding that several fatal crashes occurred days and weeks after she was asked to make the presentation.

The CHP is seeking another grant to undertake similar efforts in the future, Gutierrez said.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at