By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

BIG SKY – The speed limits changed on two stretches of Lone Mountain Trail on Oct. 30 after a speed study by the Montana Department of Transportation found an illegal speed limit in place between Andesite Road and the resort.

From the intersection of Lone Mountain Trail and U.S Highway 191 to close to Andesite Road, the speed limit—which was previously 50 mph—dropped to 45 mph. Deputy Sheriff Travis Earl said the lowered limit makes sense on the lower section, which includes the entrances to Ace Hardware and the Meadow Village Center, which lack turning lanes.

Earl could not, however, account for the 5-mph increase to 50 mph on the upper section of Lone Mountain Trail between the Andesite Road intersection and the resort.

When EBS contacted Jeff Ebert, the area’s Montana Department of Transportation district administrator, he was initially surprised to hear that the speed limit had increased, saying that limits rarely increase.

In Montana, a rational speed limit is based on an engineering speed study, which identifies the 85th percentile of speeds—the speed at or below which 85 percent of people drove the roadway during ideal conditions.

After gathering some information, Ebert said that a speed study conducted earlier this year revealed that the 45-mph speed limit on the upper section of Lone Mountain Trail was actually illegal, not having been approved by the Montana Transportation Commission.

“How it got in there, I have no clue,” Ebert said. “[The study] found that everything above [the intersection of Andesite Road] should be set at 50 [mph], based on traffic flow and development.”

He added that, additional development near the resort would likely lead to the limit being lowered again, “but at this time, we don’t want to set up an artificially low speed limit that could be called a ‘speed trap.’”