Traffic studies on county roads bring surprises

By KARLA POMEROY

Some surprises but overall valuable information was obtained from the 15 road studies conducted late summer and this fall in Big Horn County.

Engineer Willie Bridges submitted a report on all of the traffic studies to the Big Horn County commissioners at their meeting Tuesday.

He said they were able to get 15 roads completed before the cold and snowy weather hit, causing them to stop. He said he plans on borrowing the equipment again next spring and continuing the studies.

Bridges said there are some roads where people are traveling faster “than we’d like to see.”

The traffic studies marked speed, tracked peak hours, trucks and total volume. The fastest speed was 101.1 mph on Road 5, the Sand Hill Road between Byron and Cowley. The next highest was 100.7 on the Wyo-Ben/M-I SWACO Road 26 near Greybull. He said that road is posted 50 mph but the average speed was 62.7 mph so the county may look at increasing the speed on that road to 60 mph. He said he needs to further evaluate the road before bringing a recommendation to the council.

He noted peak traffic time for Road 5 was 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. which could be students traveling to Cowley for school. Peak evening times were 5-6 p.m.

Some other notable points of interest from the studies, Bridges said were:

  • Lane 12, in which the maximum speed clocked was 79 mph. He said what’s disturbing is the traffic counter was in front of the Lewis Subdivision. “That’s a heavily populated road posted at 35 mph. It’s pretty disturbing to me we have those kind of speeds.”

Also of note was the amount of traffic with 5,109 total vehicles during the seven-day span with an average daily traffic count of 708. Bridges said that was a higher volume than anticipated

  • Lane 13 had a high speed of 83.1 mph and is posted at 45 mph. He said the average speed was 45 mph.

Sheriff Ken Blackburn said when he first heard some of the preliminary reports, including the one on Lane 13, he asked his deputies to patrol Lane 13 and while only six citations were issued, along with several warnings, the visible presence of law enforcement was having an effect on slowing the traffic down.

Average traffic was 522 vehicles per day. Bridges said 20 percent of the vehicles were trucks, which was surprising. He said most county roads were single digits for truck traffic. Wyo-Ben Road 26 had 44 percent truck, which is not surprising, nor was the 34 percent on Road 10 which was during bean harvest.

He said it was likely trucks and other traffic were avoiding construction through downtown Lovell. He said Lane 13 is more of a through-way than Lane 12. Lane 12 has the hospital district and two stop signs to help slow the traffic, while Lane 13 does not.

Bridges said he likely will restudy Lane 13 in the spring to see if enforcement and construction completion will change results. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if trucks continue to use Lane 13 as a through-way.

  • Greybull River Road showed a higher than anticipated traffic with an average of 348 vehicles daily.

Other roads were Road 11, average traffic 354, average speed 42 mph; Road 11 ½, 235 average vehicles, 41.8 mph average speed; Road 7 ½, 205, 43.7 mph; Road 9, 144, 44.1 mph; Road 10, 129, 33.9 mph; Trapper Creek Road, 114, 37.5 mph; Lane 2 ½ 96, 34.2 mph; Lane 9, 70, 47.2 mph, Road 11 ½ 39, 32.6 mph. Also studied was Antelope Street in Basin and the commissioners lowered the speed limit on the street last month.

Bridges said the information provided from the traffic studies is good information for a number of county departments, including engineer, road and bridge and law enforcement.

Sheriff Blackburn said having the average daily traffic, the speeds and the peak times of traffic allows for a more effective patrol in the areas.

“We’re not looking to be speed traps but 101 mph on a road with fatalities (Road 5), there’s an issue that needs to be looked at. It’s good data that helps us deploy resources more effectively.”

Blackburn said to work on the issues he will be using a more visible patrol presence, education and enforcement (tickets). “I prefer education whenever possible.”