Posted 4/20/11 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
While the oil industry continues to give to the state, communities and residents of North Dakota, it is also taking from the state, especially when you look at roads in the western portion of the state.
Highway 1806 in McKenzie County is one of the roads that the oil industry has been particularly hard on. And many area residents are concerned that the road will be turned back into gravel.
“There has been a rumor circulating that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is going to let Highway 1806 go back to gravel,” says Rep. David Drovdal, North Dakota Speaker of the House. “After receiving many e-mails and calls about that road, Rep. Keith Kempenich and myself visited with Francis Ziegler, North Dakota Department of Transportation director. And I can assure you that the DOT is not planning to let this road go back to gravel.”
Although Highway 1806 is in bad shape, the DOT did not have it on their priority list until recently.
“If we continue to let traffic drive on 1806 like it has been, it won’t be long and all we will have left is gravel,” says Joel Wilt, North Dakota Department of Transportation assistant district engineer. “We are currently trying to repair the broken areas, and once the base is stabilized, we will look at grinding the pavement up with the existing base and stabilizing it.”
According to Wilt, the base will not be stable until it dries up, which usually happens when load restriction come off.
“Our plan is to mill and blend the roadway and then re-pave it. But if we do that, then we will also need to widen the road,” adds Wilt. “We have a plan, but funding availability will determine the timeline.”
Funding for road repairs, especially those that are not considered high priority, can be hard to come by.
“Although the DOT is getting money for oil roads, most of it has been earmarked by high priority projects, so we are looking for federal money for projects like this one on 1806,” adds Wilt. ”Right now we are not sure of federal funding because of hang-ups in Congress.”
In an effort to help limit further deterioration, the road has been given a five-ton restriction from northeast of Watford City.
“It takes time to get roads fixed, and we are working on the 1806 issues as quickly as we can,” adds Drovdal. “It isn’t going to be a fast fix. But over time this plan will fix most of the issues.”
According to Drovdal, Highway 1806 has been moved to the priority list so improvements should begin soon.
“It will take at least two to three years to complete the widening and graveling for this project depending on environmental and right-of-way needs,” says Ziegler. “It will take four years to pave depending on continued obligation of funding for oil roadways in the next biennium.”
So although it could be up to four years before Highway 1806 is back to pristine shape, residents can rest assured that the road is not going to be turned back into a gravel road.