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042910 big flat road
Missoula County commissioners voted to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph on the one section of Big Flat Road that is posted at 45 mph. The reduced speed limit was suggested by residents who fear that a planned improvement of the road this summer will create a bypass on the west side of the valley. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

It's time to start driving 35 mph at the most on Big Flat Road - or risk getting a speeding ticket.

"If people want to test it, they should do so at their own risk," Missoula Board of County Commissioners chairwoman Michele Landquist said Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the board voted to reduce the speed limit to 35 mph on the stretch of road that used to be 45 mph. The verdict came after much input from the public.

Landquist said the word from the Public Works Department is that the new and slower speed limit takes effect immediately. Director Greg Robertson earlier said an improvement project will bring flashing signs this summer to both ends of Big Flat Road so drivers will notice the speed limit.

Landquist figured when the road first was paved, few people actually lived along the straighter stretches. So then, the higher speed limit might have been appropriate. But she said over time, more people have moved to the area, and more people jog and bike the road, so it makes sense to have motorists take it easy.

She knows there are people who like to get from point A to point B in a hurry, and those drivers might not be happy with the change. Landquist also said she isn't one of them.

"You're talking to someone who has still got farming in her blood, you know," Landquist said. "I enjoy a nice slow ride in the country to take in all the scenery."

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