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An 80 MPH Speed Limit? — Just In Time For Winter

Google self-driving car. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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The 2015 Montana Legislature voted to increase interstate speeds in Montana to 80 mph. They left the decision as to which roads would receive the increased limit up to the Montana Department of Transportation.

So at the beginning of October when the snow starts flying we have three weeks at best to get used to this?

I am all for speed. I was a drag racer in my youth and rarely if ever obey interstate posted speeds which makes me part of the problem not part of the solution.

Montana has three Interstate highways — I-15, I-90 and I-94.

Will drivers do what they have always done — drive five to ten miles per hour or more over the limit?

Can Montana Roads Handle This Higher Speed?

According to the MDT there are 1,192 miles of interstate highways in Montana that would support 80 mph. The 140 miles that would be the exception to the speed limit are mostly in mountains west of the Continental Divide on I-90 and Boulder and Wolf Creek Canyons on I-15.

If you are coming east from Idaho on I-90 you will have to wait 34 miles after Lookout Pass before putting the pedal to the metal.

Remember When We Had No Speed Limit?

When the government gives you lemons — make lemonade. Here is a brief history of Montana speed limits and how we stuck it to Uncle Sam.

  • Montana got its first speed limit ever in 1974. President Nixon passed a 55 mph limit because of the oil crisis. Montana did not want the reduced limit so the government threatened to withhold federal funds to the state if we did not comply. As an act of civil disobedience Montana imposed a $5.00 fine for speeding that would not go on a drivers record. Police were paid five-dollar bill on the spot. It was back when we had leadership at the state level.
  • In 1995 Congress rescinded the 55 mph speed limit. Without a federal law in place Montana returned to a speed limit of “reasonable and prudent.” The fine of $5.00 remained on the books and a clean driving record as well.
  • In 1998 the Montana Supreme Court struck down the “reasonable and prudent” law in a 4-3 decision saying the law was unconstitutionally vague.
  • So in May of 1999 Montana got it’s first posted daytime speed limit since December of 1995. Seventy-five was the new limit.
  • Tomorrow, October 1, 2015 parts of our state will move to the 80 mph limit. And the beat goes on.

Some Final Thoughts

What does the future hold for Montana speed limits? Will driverless cars be able to go faster with the human element eliminated? Many of today’s new cars break automatically if the driver is not paying strict attention.

GPS could eventually be able to control all transportation on the planet. Instead of stop can go traffic you could be learning, texting, Facebooking, or sleeping on your to and from work commute.

I remember in high school in the 60s we were supposed to be all over space by now and everyone would have their own flying car. I guess we are a little lax in our technology.

Where do you see transportation going? Is there a 200 mph speed limit in your future? Comments below.

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