Love Lane street lights

Ted Coté, coordinator of the petition to remove the high-beam street lights from Love Lane, stands for a portrait under the lights.

Love Lane residents are demanding the Montana Department of Transportation turn off recently installed streetlights that they say are shining into their homes and ruining the rural character of their neighborhood.

MDT said it won’t turn off the lights because they make the road safer but said it is looking into ways to reduce the amount of light that reaches homes.

“Love Lane is a rural road with real people who bought properties there because of the rural peace and quiet, the solitude of the night,” the residents wrote in a petition to the MDT, adding, “The lights are overkill and a waste of taxpayer money.”

This summer, the transportation department completed a $1.025 million project on Love Lane that included the addition of a traffic signal at the intersection with Huffine Lane, the widening of the roadway for a left-turn lane and the installation of streetlights.

The state took on the project, which is part of a larger improvement along Huffine Lane that began in 2007, to address the increasing traffic and make intersections safer, said project engineer Duane Libel.

“Love Lane is getting busier all the time,” he said. “For all our projects, including this one, we do studies to determine what improvements make sense.”

However, residents of the five homes that sit opposite the streetlights said they don’t see a need for the lights because they are far from the intersection and they haven’t seen crashes or crime in the area.

They said if the transportation department won’t remove the lights, they would like the lights altered so they no longer shine into their homes and yards.

“When the lights came on, we were shocked,” said Ted Coté, who started the petition. “It felt as if the cops were showing up at your house and doing a raid.”

In addition to sending the petition to the Department of Transportation, Coté spoke to the county commission and his state representatives to ask if they could help get the lights taken down. They were sympathetic to his concerns, but any changes to the streetlights are up to MDT.

Coté purchased a Love Lane home about a year ago and uses it for short-term rentals. He said the streetlights negatively affect his business. He is considering moving to the home full-time because he likes the rural neighborhood, but with the streetlights, he said he is no longer certain of his plans.

Peter Bennett signed the petition after the lights came on because they flood his bedroom. He said he’s been having trouble sleeping and has had to purchase thicker curtains to block the light. He also said he’s concerned about the light pollution from the streetlights, which makes it difficult to see the stars like he has been able to since he moved to Love Lane two decades ago.

“I’m used to living out in the country,” he said. “Now, it’s like being in a seat in a stadium.”

The streetlights beam through Ric Plante’s living room window late at night. When the lights turned on last week, he said his cats were confused and ran around, thinking it was daytime.

“The lights are extremely intrusive,” said Plante, who has signed the petition. “Something needs to change.”

Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at pstein@dailychronicle.com. Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

Perrin Stein is the county, state and federal government reporter for the Chronicle.

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