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Council pumps the brakes on slower speeds

After racing towards slower speeds, the Three Forks City Council put the brakes on conducting a speed study which could determine whether the town’s 15 mile per hour speed limit signs are enforceable within city limits during its Nov. 8 meeting.

Montana law requires that in-town roads have set speed limits of 25 miles per hour, except around parks and schools. To reduce the speed limit on any other street, a speed study must determine that driver behavior at the faster or slower speed could be curbed by a slower speed limit.

“Typically, statutory speed limits on local routes are set to match driver behavior and roadway operation characteristics. To maintain the existing 15 mile an hour speed limit on these routes it would be necessary to show that the existing driver behavior matches the desired speed limits,” read a letter from Abelin Traffic Services out of Helena.

The letter also explained that speeds lower than 25 miles per hour on roads other than parks and schools is uncommon.

Council president Gene Townsend and another council member agreed that spending $5,200 on the speed study would likely be a waste of money.

“I think what they’re going to find is there’s no reasons that would allow us to go beyond the state statutes and set our own speed limits,” Townsend said.

Rather than spending money on the study, Townsend and a fellow council member opted for the purchase of radar speed signs which will notify drivers when they exceed the speed limit.

“I think they’d work,” Townsend said.

City Treasurer Kelly Smith said she was unsure whether the 15 mile per hour signs need to come down or if the Sheriff’s Department could simply enforce a 25 mile per hour speed limit.

A member of the public in attendance at the Nov. 8 meeting told the council that raising the speed limit would simply increase the number at which people speed, adding that drivers should receive tickets at 26 miles per hour for violating the speed limit.

“If you gotta go faster, move to a different state,” he said.

If 25 mile per hour signs are installed, Townsend echoed the desire of a member of the public saying he hoped it would be strictly enforced.

“I mean we can’t tell the Sheriff’s Department what to do,” he said.

Councilman George Chancellor motioned in favor of conducting the study. It was not seconded.

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