Speed change considered on Bootlegger Trail

Based on a citizen inquiry, the Montana Department of Transportation conducted a speed study on Bootlegger Trail from the intersection with Havre Highway to the area just north of Eagles Crossing.

MDT’s recommendation from the study is to extend the 45 miles per hour zone north from the intersection and transition to a 60 miles per hour zone just beyond Eagles Crossing and then resume the current 70 miles per hour.

Since the route is within the city limits, MDT send the report and recommendations to the city, which has 60 days to return comments.

MDT sent the information to the city in mid-December and once the city’s comments are sent to MDT, the speed change will be added to a Transportation Commission agenda for consideration.

The proposal would extend the 45 miles per hour zone about 200 feet, making it that speed for about 1,200 feet from the intersection with Havre Highway. Then it would change to 60 miles per hour for about 3,900 feet to the gravel road just south of a pipeline station on Bootlegger Trail.

According to the speed study, about half of the traffic in that area is traveling below 60 miles per hour in the section currently posted at 70 miles per hour.

In the 200 feet north of 44th Avenue Northeast where the speed limit is 70, the study found that just 34 percent of traffic was going 62-72 miles per hour northbound and 36 percent was going that speed southbound.

The current 45 miles per hour zone was established in 2005 and that portion of Bootlegger Trail was reconstructed in 2016.

The citizen who initiated the discussion did so on the basis that the additional residential growth on 46th Avenue Northeast was generating an increase in traffic volume along Bootlegger Trail from that intersection south to the stop sign at the intersection with Havre Highway making the 70 miles per hour speed limit inappropriate for traffic operation, according to the MDT speed study.

There were seven crashes within the study area from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2018, according to the MDT study. Of those, four were single vehicle and three were multi-vehicle crashes and each crash involved its own set of circumstances.

“There were no definable trends pinpointing a correctable condition or a correlation with the speed limit,” according to the MDT.