Group still lobbies for MT 37 speed reduction

Jun. 9—A group of Lincoln County residents living along Montana 37 are asking other citizens to share their thoughts about lowing the speed limit.

Jim Mitchell is part of the group seeking the reduction of the limit from 70 miles per hour to 55 or even 60.

"Please submit your comments to Brent Teske by June 22," Mitchell said. "There are too many animals getting hit and it's just a matter of time before we have some serious accidents."

Mitchell lives in the Dillon Road area, about 10 miles north of Libby. He said those who want to see speed limit changes should email them to

Teske said Friday he had just received two comments about the issue.

"If people have any hope of changing things, they need to get their comments to me by June 22 and then I'll forward them to the state," Teske said.

The group first came to the commissioners in January 2021. At the time, more than 200 people signed the group's petition calling for the speed limit reduction. They cited speeding motorists, conflicts with wildlife and safety concerns, particularly turning on and off the state highway, as the main reasons for the request.

After departing the outskirts of Libby city limits, the speed limit on the roadway increases to 70 miles per hour.

At the April 26 commission meeting earlier this spring, Montana Department of Transportation District Traffic Engineer Rebecca Franke presented the results of a study and possible changes the agency is proposing.

In the Montana 37 study, which begins at the intersection of U.S. 2 in Libby and ends at Libby Dam, it showed average annual daily traffic volume in 2021 range from 6,300 vehicles north of the Kootenai River Bridge in Libby to about 460 vehicles near Libby Dam.

In the last five years, there has been an average increase in traffic volume of 14%. Traffic volumes were 30% higher in summer months. The segment between Fisher River Road and Jennings Hiline Drive had a 58% increase between 2017 and 2021.

There were 27 traffic crashes between Jan. 1, 2018 to Dec. 31, 2020. Eighteen had no apparent injuries while four had suspected serious injuries. A total of five had either possible or minor injuries. Thirteen crashes involved wild animals and eight involved adverse road conditions.

Fourteen crashes occurred in the first 3.5 miles of roadway.

Montana Highway Patrol made 31 traffic stops in the three-year timeframe and wrote 35 citations, 18 of which were for speeding. All the speeding tickets occurred between milepost 0 and 12.5 with clusters at 8.7, 10 and 12 and the bulk of them in the 70 mph zone.

While the rural environment sections of Montana 37 do not adhere to current design standards, which indicate the road and shoulders should be wider, low traffic volumes don't dictate it.

State officials did recommend extending 35 mph and 45 mph special speed zones to at least 1,600 feet to provide better transitional speed zones.

Mitchell had a problem with the state using data from 2018 to 2021 and not considering what he believes is happening now and in the future.

"They should be looking to the future and what will be happening instead of what is going on now," Mitchell said.