As traffic whizzed by, a work crew bolted in new speed limit signs Thursday morning along a stretch of Gallatin County’s portion of Interstate 90 as a new law raised the speed limit to 80 mph.

Between the Belgrade and Jackson Creek exits the speed limit will remain 75 mph.

That’s probably smart, said Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Gilbert, who is based in Livingston, because the Bozeman pass can become a challenging drive in inclement weather.

He hadn’t been on the road much, but saw people driving in the mid-80s. “We’ve always had that,” Gilbert said.

Will this mean people will get away with driving 85 mph without getting pulled over?

“Every trooper has there own tolerance at what they’re going to stop people at,” Gilbert said. “If you stop everyone doing 5 over you’re going to miss the people going way too fast.”

The bill creating the higher limit, SB 375, was sponsored by state Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, and also raises the fine for basic speeding tickets from $20 to $40 and doubled the maximum from $100 to $200. Three other proposals to raise highway speed limits failed.

Many can recall when Montana had no maximum speed other than driving in a “reasonable and prudent” manner.

Montana’s period of no set speed limit lasted from 1995, when Congress repealed the national 55 mph speed limit, to 1999, when the state Supreme Court said the “reasonable and prudent” rule was unconstitutionally vague, after which the Legislature set a maximum 75 mph.

The Federal Highway Administration told the Chronicle that it had no comment on the state’s decision to raise the Interstate’s speed limit 5 mph.

“There is no linkage to speed limits and federal funding made available to states,” Neil Gaffney, a public affairs specialist with the agency, told the Chronicle on Thursday.

Troy Carter can be reached at 582-2630 or He’s on Twitter at @cartertroy.


Troy Carter covers politics and county government for the Chronicle.

Support quality local journalism. Become a subscriber.

Subscribers get full, survey-free access to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle's award-winning coverage both on our website and in our e-edition, a digital replica of the print edition.