Teton County School District No. 1 wants drivers to slow down near Munger Mountain Elementary School, but school officials won’t be on South Highway 89 waving signs that say, “slow down.”
Instead, the district sent a letter to the Teton County Board of County Commissioners imploring the board to ask the Wyoming Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit near the recently constructed school.
“The District firmly believes that traffic mitigation to remind drivers to maintain a safe speed proximate to the school is vital to ensuring student and motorist life/safety objectives are provided for,” the letter reads.
Signed by school board Chairwoman Betsy Carlin, the letter asks for variable speed signing that would allow the speed limit to be lowered during certain times of day. The request asks for the speed limit to drop to 45 mph between 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. The proposed change would be in effect from September to mid-June.
“The District believes minor reductions in the speed limit at select times during the day would greatly improve safety,” the letter says.
The speed limit on that stretch of Highway 89 is 55 mph.
Writing the letter is a necessary formality because the district cannot directly ask WYDOT for the change; instead, the board of county commissioners must do so. The district sent the letter Dec. 11, but discussion of the change hasn’t made the board’s agenda as of yet.
No matter when the discussion does come up in a meeting, a speed limit reduction will take time. WYDOT District Traffic Engineer Darin Kaufman said a change is unlikely until the South Highway 89 widening project is complete, still over a couple of years away. The agency would also have to conduct studies to determine whether a reduction is even feasible.
“We follow a federal manual and state law that requires us to do an engineering study for any adjustments for speed up or down,” he said. “The basic focus is on the motoring traffic and how they react to the situation.”
Kaufman said the widening of the highway will change traffic flows, so he would likely conduct a study following the completion of the project, slated to conclude by July 2022. He did collect data before Munger was constructed, and Jorgensen Associates conducted a study around the same time that recommended no changes to the speed limit.
The district says in its letter that driver speeds and numbers have increased since the Jorgensen study, but Kaufman said because of construction he wouldn’t be able to confirm those claims until Highway 89 work is done.
“What we like to do is make sure that the data is not biased by outside factors,” he said. “I advised the school before that we might not be able to get good data until after that section of roadway is fully built.”