Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) The posted speed limit will change on Mary Jane Boulevard and Flynn Lane to a steady 25 miles per hour, a move the city believes will make travel safer as the area fills in with housing.

The Missoula City Council approved the request from Public Works on Wednesday, along with a separate request to vacate a small stretch of Lower Miller Creek Road and change the speed limit there to 25.

Mary Jane Boulevard was fully connected from Broadway to Mullan Road as part of the recent infrastructure project. In doing so, it became a primary north-south connector for the area.

City Engineer Kevin Slovarp said it was designed that way from the beginning and was built with an 80-foot right-of-way – far wider than other streets in the area.

“We always anticipated that when Mary Jane was connected, it would become the collector and Flynn Lane would revert to a local road,” said Slovarp. “In doing so, we desired to increase the safety of Flynn Lane and want to talk about the speed limits.”

Currently, Mary Jane includes a mix of speed limits ranging from 25 to 35. Flynn Lane also includes various speeds. The city will make the speed limit uniform at 25 miles per hour on both roads.

“It confuses drivers and we don't get uniform speeds that way,” Slovarp said. “Instead of raising the 25 mile per hour stretch, we think it's better for safety, the uniformity of speed distribution and the concerns of residents, to make the entire reach 25.”

All but one member of City Council supported the reduction in speeds.

“That (Mary Jane) is the mainline going from Broadway to Mullan,” said council member John Contos, who opposed the change. “With it going to 25 MPH, that's going to slow things up quite a bit. It seems like the design wasn't really well thought out.”

The city will ask the Missoula Police Department to increase patrols in the area once the new speed limit is posted. Slovarp said there will likely be a short grace period.

“It provides an opportunity for the police department to work the new posted speed limit location and inform drivers of the new speed and not basically write tickets immediately,” Slovarp said. “We'll work with them to make sure that occurs in this location.”

The city will also reduce a short stretch of Lower Miller Creek Road to 25 miles per hour where it intersects growth of the Linda Vista subdivision. The subdivision was approved in 2009 and is poised to move down the hill to encompass Lower Miller Creek Road.

As it does, the city has agreed to vacate the right-of-way on Lower Miller Creek Road to allow a realignment that matches planned growth. Like other roads, Lower Miller Creek includes a mix of speeds, and while the short stretch will be lowered to 25, other portions will remain higher.

Council member Stacie Anderson, who lives in and represents the neighborhood, said residents would like to see the speed limit changed to a uniform 25 miles per hour. But that could take time.

“We'd need to conduct an engineering study and bring that to City Council,” said Slovarp.