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Intersection change draws fire

by Canda HarbaughWestern News
| November 30, 2009 11:00 PM

The Lincoln County road crew has been replacing a stop sign weekly on Snowshoe Road in Libby since first putting it up mid-July – the vandalism costing taxpayer money and demonstrating neighbors’ overall discontent with the intersection’s new layout.

Last week the sign on the Snowshoe-Shaugnessy-Cabinet Heights intersection was mowed down for the 13th time. 

“If someone gets in a wreck because there’s no sign there, they (the vandals) are liable,” warned Marc McCully, county road crew foreman for Libby district.

The post costs over $50, the stop sign $35-$50 and the street sign above it about $35 – though the crew has recently stopped replacing the street sign “until they decide to quit running over it,” according to McCully.

“It probably costs in the $100 range to replace, besides the labor,” McCully said.

Shaugnessy Road forks at the top of the hill – Snowshoe Road on the left, Cabinet Heights Road in the middle and Scenery Road on the right. The county road crew squared up the intersection at the direction of the state, which turned the curve from Shaugnessy to Snowshoe into more of a left turn.

Scenery kept its stop sign and the road crew moved a stop sign from Cabinet Heights to Snowshoe, making the route between Shaugnessy and Cabinet Heights a through street.

Many neighboring residents condemn the stop sign vandalism, but are concerned about the intersection’s new design from a safety standpoint. Uphill traffic turning left from Shaugnessy onto Snowshoe now has to yield to downhill traffic moving from Cabinet Heights to Shaugnessy.

“I’m concerned about people coming up the hill in the winter-time,” Kim Olsen said. “People making that left hand turn could be t-boned.”

Olsen, who lives on Snowshoe, and other neighboring residents recently presented commissioners with a petition signed by nearly 150 people requesting the stop sign on Cabinet Heights be put back up, creating a three-way stop.

“I think it’s common sense to give people coming up the hill the right-of-way,” Olsen said.

Olsen created the petition and went door-to-door to neighboring houses to get support for the additional stop sign. 

“They were all for it,” Olsen said. “(They said) we’ve got to do something different.”

Glen Charland agreed with Olsen.

“They have it to where when you finally get enough momentum to get up the hill in the winter, and if there’s cars coming down, you have to stop and wait for them to go,” Charland said. “You can get three or four cars backed up there.”

Charland heard rumors that the stop sign was moved to accommodate golfers who didn’t want to stop at the intersection, but in reality, the orders came from Helena.

“The state said that they were going to do it if we didn’t,” McCully said. “They had a safety project there. When there’s so many wrecks in an area they can override us, and that was one of the worst ones here.”

McCully said that if the state had done the work, it would have also closed Scenery Road from the intersection, forcing residents to access the loop from the Cabinet Heights entrance.

Olsen and Charland disagreed with moving the stop sign because they believe traffic between Snowshoe and Shaugnessy is higher than that between Cabinet Heights and Shaugnessy, except during the summer when the golf course is open.

“The state took their census in the summer time,” Olsen said. “… In all actuality, if you took your census in the winter, there would be more people coming from the Snowshoe way.”

The state told the county, however, that its numbers are an annual average and they indicate more traffic from Cabinet Heights, McCully said. Nevertheless, the county obtained its own counter on Monday to verify the traffic patterns. 

Commissioner Tony Berget said that commissioners took input from McCully, who is in favor of the current layout, and is awaiting advice from the state before making a decision.

“We went up and took a look at it the other day,” Berget said, “and we’ve been working closely with the state on it … They’re going to come out and take a look, too.”

Residents also said at the commissioner meeting that the turn from Shaugnessy to Snowshoe is too tight, making it difficult for buses and trailers to negotiate it without getting too far into the left lane.

“If there’s a car sitting at that stop sign (on Snowshoe) and you’re pulling a trailer (left onto Snowshoe), you end up stopped in the middle of the road….” Charland said. “In the meantime, you have a car coming down the hill that doesn’t have to stop, which has personally happened to me.”

McCully says that much of the problem could be addressed by traveling the 25 mph speed limit, instead of the more common 45 mph speed.

“Speed is a factor, but I’ve gone up the hill at 25 mph and you feel like you’re going to go right in that marsh (when turning left onto Snowshoe),” Olsen said, “and come winter time people are going to end up there.”

The county continues to study the intersection, and McCully said he has no qualms with changing it if the current layout proves hazardous.”

“If we find out that it is unsafe coming through the golf course,” he said, “we will put a stop sign up there.”