Motorists who drive the Lasalle portion of U.S. Highway 2 north of Kalispell will have to drive 10- to 15-mph slower, due to recent state-approved speed limit reductions.
The speed limit was reduced from 70 mph to 60 mph on the stretch between the Highway 40 intersection and Glacier Park International Airport. Drivers are also limited to 55 mph from the airport to Rose Crossing.
The Montana Transportation Commission approved the reduction on July 29 after the Montana Department of Transportation performed a study on the roadway, which concluded with a recommendation for slower limits.
According to MDT Director Jim Lynch, the Glacier Park International Airport Authority Board approached the state with concerns about the speed on that stretch of highway. The state typically responds to local concerns with a traffic study, he said.
Study results showed 73 crashes on the highway from Jan. 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2008, two of which resulted in fatalities. Animals caused 16 crashes and adverse conditions contributed to 17. Alcohol was a factor in six crashes.
MDT also determined the average daily traffic volume to be 16,640 vehicles, and that the highway has multiple uses, including commercial, industrial, private approaches and several large intersections.
The study also found that approximately the same number of people travel between 60 mph and 65 mph as those who travel between 65 mph and 70 mph.
Based on these results, MDT recommended that the transportation commission reduce speeds on Highway 2. MDT officials also met with the Flathead County commissioners to go over the study results, Lynch said.
MDT initially recommended reducing the speed to 65 mph between Blue Moon junction at Highway 40 and the airport, but the county commissioners suggested lowering it to 60 mph to be consistent with speeds on Highway 40, Lynch said.
The additional reduction fit within the study’s findings, he said, and the recommendation was passed along to the state transportation committee.
While the changes were officially in effect on July 29, Lynch said Montana Highway Patrol officers are generally understanding of speed limit changes and usually give out warning tickets, though that is under the officers’ discretion.
“It isn’t designed to be a speed trap, it’s designed to work the community into it,” Lynch said.
State law gives the Montana Transportation Commission final authority over speed limit changes. The commission is not required to follow MDT’s study recommendation, Lynch said, and there are no requirements within the law for public hearings on such changes.
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