West Main speed study

Results of a recent state speed study on West Main Street in Belgrade has city officials wondering if Montana Department of Transportation officials are seeing the Big Picture when it comes to the city’s growth.

MDT’s modeling template “is it tends to want to move traffic” instead of considering all of the future components that will affect traffic, said City Manager Ted Barkley.

The state wants higher speeds along the stretch, while the city wants to slow things down.

There’s a lot of activity planned for the area, city officials said.

For instance, there are at least four subdivisions in various stages along Bolinger Road with a new elementary school to be built.

The study covers 4.4 miles of West Main Street/Frontage Road from Jackrabbit Lane to Thorpe Road. MDT records show there 32 crashes from June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2019.

“Fifty- three percent (17 of 32) of those crashes were concentrated between the intersection with Jackrabbit Lane and the intersection with 8th Street,” transportation officials wrote. “They were comprised of all crash types with the exception of the ‘wild animal’ crash.” 

For the most part, MDT said current speeds fall into the 85th percentile, a measurement the state uses to determine speed limits – the rate that 85 percent of the traffic drives.

The state suggested extending the current 35 mph limit that ends around 8th Street to just past 10th Street “to include the high-volume traffic generators adjacent to West Main Street.”

The council approved the lowering the limits even further, but the issue lies in the hands of MDT.

“It won’t be easy, but we’ll try,” Barkley said.