Posted 11/23/11 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
“This is a great occasion,” stated North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple. “It’s an event worthy of celebrating.”
The event worth celebrating was the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, held last Friday in Watford City, commemorating the completion of the Super 2 highway project on U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Williston.
“The $43.6 million project marks the completion of North Dakota’s first ‘Super 2 Highway,’” stated Dalrymple. “Getting the improvements done to U.S. Highway 85 in one year is a great accomplishment. And it’s on its way to becoming a four-lane someday.”
As a Super 2 highway, the 40-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Williston includes one-mile long passing lanes spaced about five miles apart. The new roadway features 12 passing lanes on inclines, with six in the northbound lane and six in the southbound lane. In addition, the North Dakota Department of Transportation has added several turning lanes to the roadway to improve safety and traffic flow.
“We have committed an unprecedented amount of state funding and resources to improve the traffic flow and safety of our roadways,” stated Dalrymple. “Improving our roadways is an important quality-of-life aspect for our residents and a critical factor in the state’s continued economic growth.”
According to the Governor, in addition to the improvements that were made to U.S. Highway 85, the state also has plans to improve N.D. Highway 22 from Killdeer north to N.D. Highway 23, N.D. Highway 23 from New Town to N.D. Highway 28 and to construct reliever truck routes for the cities of Williston, Watford City, Dickinson, New Town and Alexander.
“North Dakotans need good roads to maintain a high quality of life,” stated John Hoeven, U.S. Senator, who was instrumental in getting funding for the highway project when he served as the state’s governor.
“These new ‘Super 2’ passing lanes will help our residents, visitors, and energy workers travel with greater ease and safety throughout the area,” stated Hoeven.
It is Hoeven’s longtime goal to see Highway 85 eventually expanded into an undivided four-lane highway.
“Highway 85 is part of the state’s “figure-eight of main highways,” stated Hoeven. “Highway 83 between Minot and Bismarck is a four-lane road, as are Interstates 94 and 29. The expansion of Highway 85 into four lanes would complete the four-lane ‘figure-eight’ of the state’s major highways.”
And the state’s recognition of the need for improvements to Highway 85 didn’t go unnoticed by Brent Sanford, Watford City’s mayor.
“Sen. Hoeven and Gov. Dalrymple know of our plight out here,” stated Sanford. “The Governor really went to bat for us. It’s been wonderful to see the support from Bismarck. We didn’t have to beg. They saw our need and helped us.”
But amidst the smiles and pats on the back from politicians and state officials on a job well done in getting U.S. Highway 85 to Super 2 status, Ward Koeser, Williston’s mayor, challenged the state to speed up the process of getting the highway four-laned.
“This is a huge step today,” stated Koeser, who is a Watford City native. “But the accidents that we are seeing on the highway are not good. People are being killed daily. We need to get this road to four-lane as quickly as possible.”
While the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation doesn’t have immediate plans for the four-laning of U.S. Highway 85, according to Francis Ziegler, DOT director, the agency will be working to improve roadways in the oil-impacted counties.
“We’re looking at the future and how to make U.S. Highway 85 a four-lane,” stated Ziegler. “But with the money that we have available, we’re looking at the Highway 22 corridor and then coming back to Highway 85. In addition, we are looking at major work on N.D. Highway 23.”
According to Ziegler, the city of New Town is seeing up to 11,000 vehicles going through its Main Street on a daily basis.
“We stand ready to continue to work out here,” stated Ziegler. “We have to continue to make Super 2 improvements and to thicken the roadbeds on the impacted highways.”