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Neighbors say speed limit must drop due to recent crashes in northwest Billings

Augusta Ranch residents fear more crashes
Masters - Molt intersection.PNG
Posted at 6:30 PM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 20:30:01-04

BILLINGS — After a motorcyclist was killed in July, residents in the nearby Augusta Ranch subdivision are saying high speed along the Molt Road corridor is commonplace.

On July 19, Aaron Lurz was hit and killed by an allegedly drunken driver at the corner of Molt Road and Masters Boulevard. Clark Johnson is a resident of Augusta Ranch east of Molt Road and was first on the scene.

"All of a sudden, I heard a tremendous crash, a crunching crash. I thought, my lord, that is not good. Somebody’s dead there, that’s my first thought. Somebody’s dead there. You can’t have a crash like that without someone being dead," said Johnson.

Johnson was outside working on his garden and after hearing the impact turned around and ran to the aid of Lurz. He instructed a neighbor to call 911 and then stayed with Lurz until paramedics arrived on scene. It's a moment that he'll never forget and one that haunts him.

"When I'm in my front yard, I hear high speed traffic a lot out there and in the back of my mind I’m thinking someone is going to die there again. People just go too fast on this road," added Johnson.

His fears are echoed by his neighbors.

"We hear the sirens all the time and they go out further than our house a lot. At least a couple times a week we hear sirens," said Robyn Ross, Augusta Ranch resident.

That’s one reason the city is planning to install a roundabout just south of Augusta Ranch, near the intersection of 62nd Street West and Rimrock Road. The goal is to slow drivers down, and construction is scheduled to begin next summer.

Not everyone in the neighborhood is sold on the idea that it will make a huge difference, however.

"No, it will not help the speed here. We’re still 300 yards away from that roundabout. When high-speed traffic is coming towards our house, heading towards that roundabout as soon as they pass that intersection, they’re going to be going 55+ mph. So, that’s not going to slow them down," Johnson added.

Johnson believes a change to the speed limit could be a start to help change the current narrative. The amount of traffic speeding through the area has also changed how Ross lets her grandchildren play outside.

"They’re not allowed to play on the other side of the driveway since we're so close to the road. They know they can go down and around through the neighborhood, but they aren't allowed to be close to the road because the way people turn that corner on our street, they’re always going super fast," added Ross.