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AS I SEE IT

Posted 2/06/13 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With Gov. Dalrymple’s signing of Senate Bill 2176, high-impacted roads in western North Dakota, and more specifically several in McKenzie County, will soon be seeing major renovations starting this upcoming construction season that will make these heavily traveled roads much safer.
The new funding bill, which makes $720 million immediately available for statewide highway and road improvement projects, was “fast-tracked” through the Legislature. The unusual practice of “fast-tracking” this bill through the Legislature and attaching an emergency clause, which allows the funds to become immediately available upon the Governor’s signature, means that these construction projects can begin at the onset of the 2013 construction season. Without this priority action being taken, the funding for these critical road projects would not have been available until after June 30, 2013 and well into the construction season. That delay in funding would have meant that many of these road projects would have been delayed until the spring of 2014.
In signing this legislation, Dalrymple noted that the state of North Dakota is committed to meeting the needs of our growing state, and that includes addressing critical infrastructure improvements that will enhance the safety of our traveling public.
The Governor and the Legislature deserve credit for having their priorities right this time when it came to getting these much-needed funds to the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation (NDDOT) so that they can complete necessary design work and get the projects ready for bid.
Getting road improvements on N.D. Highways 1806 and 22 are critical to keeping the oil traffic moving in McKenzie County, as are the other projects which will help improve driving safety in all of northwestern North Dakota.
But probably the biggest project that the state will be undertaking this summer, thanks to the funding provided by Senate Bill 2176, is the continued construction on U.S. Highway 85 that will turn this two-lane highway into a much needed four-lane road from Watford City to Williston. While the NDDOT has spent considerable money over the past three years installing passing lanes on this stretch of highway, the volume of traffic that it is currently moving on that highway more than warrants the additional investment that it will take to make it into a safe highway.
As part of the appropriation, $620 million will be available for major highway improvement projects in North Dakota’s oil-producing region and in other areas of the state, while also providing $100 million for local road projects in cities, counties and townships in non-oil-producing counties.
While Gov. Dalrymple is proposing a total funding package of $2.7 billion for road and highway improvement projects, bypass routes, interchanges and for other statewide infrastructure upgrades during the 2013-2015 biennium, the action to get this $620 million into the works for the start of the 2013 construction is a good one and is going to be much appreciated in the oil patch.