Bull Lake residents seek reduced speed limits
By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter
A group of concerned citizens is lobbying for reduced speed limits on Montana Highway 56 in the Bull Lake area.
Several residents of the area met with the Lincoln County Commissioners on Wednesday to secure a formal request that the state Department of Transportation conduct a study of the area from the county line at the south end of the lake to Dorr Skeels Campground at the north end. Accompanying the request from the commissioners will be a collection of letters from Bull Lake residents and a school bus driver arguing in favor of reduced speeds to promote safety.
"All of us, having lived out there, have stories," Betty Sikes told the commissioners.
The speed limit on the highway is currently 70 mph except for a short 55-mph stretch around the Halfway House bar. The group is hoping for a speed limit of 55 mph along the length of the lake, where traffic can be especially congested during the summer months.
Bill Bischoff, executive assistant to the commissioners, cautioned the group not to be too optimistic about the potential for success when dealing with state highway officials.
"They don't really look at safety concerns a whole lot," he said. "They look at what people are driving."
Commissioner Marianne Roose said she has been frustrated along with Eureka-area residents when trying to get speed limits reduced in congested areas in the fast-growing northern part of the county. Nevertheless, she expressed support for the Bull Lake group's efforts.
"I hope that we can get something done for you," she said.
"Maybe the collection of stories we can tell" will make a difference, group member Susan Kadlec said.
Commissioner John Konzen offered his understanding of the state's use of speed studies to determine how fast the majority of people are driving and set limits accordingly.
"The explanation from them is, we want traffic to go smoothly and flow, and all you do is set speed traps when you lower the speed limit," he said.
Konzen added that it can take a long time for the state to conduct a study, and that such studies don't usually happen during times of peak summer traffic.
"It's a frustrating experience to go through," he said.