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Study looks at improving Highway 85

Posted 5/20/09 (Wed)

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

A four-lane highway from Watford City to Belfield, wow – that would be great! Unfortunately, that’s something that just isn’t economically feasible, at least at this time. But supporters of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway (TRE) hope to bring residents of McKenzie County the next best thing.
If your days were spent driving from one end of North Dakota to the other, it wouldn’t take long for you to determine the best route, which way is fastest, safest and has the best kept roadways. In most areas that’s the route with the most four-lane, but the TRE is trying to change that.
There are hundreds of people driving across the state of North Dakota each day, and many of them are traveling through Watford City, stopping to fuel up at local gas stations, eating at area restaurants and staying in McKenzie County motels. In order to keep them coming through the county, it is important to keep this route of travel in good shape. These travelers are an asset to the community because they bring goods, services and their business to the county, and the TRE is an organization working to ensure that traffic continues to flow through McKenzie County.
“People are going to choose the safest and fastest route when they travel,” states Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Economic Development director. “We want McKenzie County to be part of that route and the TRE is going to help us make sure that we are.”
Area residents, business owners and leaders gathered at a meeting last Thursday to learn more about the TRE and give their input and ask questions about the project.
The meeting was one of four meetings held by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, Williams County, Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson Inc. and Ulteig Engineers throughout the proposed TRE as part of a Corridor Study.
The Corridor Study is being conducted in three phases. Phase I is currently underway. Its purposes are to identify the transportation needs along the corridor and to determine if a corridor master plan and environmental document should be developed.
“We are here today to address the immediate needs of the area,” stated Bob Shannon, Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson Inc. project manager. “We need to look at this issue from the big picture to make corridor-wide improvements. We want to know the immediate needs and the projected needs in the future so the DOT can make appropriate suggestions.”
Shannon urged attendees to think about their current needs and concerns as well as their future needs.
“If you own a business that has five trucks on the road today we want to know your plans for the future,” adds Shannon. “If you plan to expand so you have 100 trucks on the road each day, we need to know so the appropriate changes can be made for the future.”
The vision of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association (TREA) is to initially promote the updating of the corridor's current, standard two-lane, formatting into a super two highway format. A super two highway format would improve on the current highway by widening the shoulders, adding passing lanes on hills, and placing turning lanes at intersections to help improve overall travel efficiency and safety.
“We know there are very different needs from one end of the state to the other,” says Shannon. “That’s why we’re here today. We want to address the needs of this area by getting input from people who travel here on a regular basis and hear what your suggestions or concerns are.”
 The TRE will stimulate transportation opportunities in a 100-plus mile area on either side of the highway by improving trade efficiency, adding economic growth opportunities, and improving overall highway safety. The opportunities that this corridor will provide are invaluable to the future of this region.
“We need to think about how we in North Dakota keep this corridor working well to offer safe travel through the state,” says Jack Olson, North Dakota Department of Transportation. “At this time there is no plan for a four-lane because of the cost. But we want to put the right amount of income into this area to make traffic safer and more efficient for the travelers in this area.”
The next public meetings aren’t scheduled until January of 2010, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get your input out there or your questions answered. Anyone wishing to submit questions or input to the Corridor Study may do so until May 28, 2009. Mail can be sent to Bob Shannon, Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson Inc., 128 Soo Line Drive, Bismarck, N.D., 58501 and e-mail can be sent to bob.shannon@kljeng.com with ‘TRE Public Input Meeting’ in the subject line.
For more information on the TRE visit www.trexpressway.com.