Posted 11/04/14 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
How do you spell relief?
For residents of Watford City, relief is spelled “bypasses!” And with the opening of the long awaited U.S. Highway 85 and N.D. Highway 23 bypasses last Tuesday, a sense of normalcy was returned to city motorists that they haven’t had the opportunity to experience in the past five years.
Almost immediately after the bypasses opened, there was a noticeable impact on traffic within the city. Gone was the more than 5,000 semi trucks that daily made their way through Watford City, which resulted in miles-long traffic line on the east and south sides of town. Gone was the congested traffic down Watford City’s Main Street and at the heavily used intersections.
Unless you have experienced driving in Watford City lately, you have absolutely no idea just how important the opening of those two bypasses were to area residents and to improving the city’s quality of life. Traveling to the Watford Plaza shopping area suddenly became a quick trip instead of a dreaded half an hour driving adventure. Instead of planning every trip by making only right-hand turns in order to avoid crossing traffic, it is now possible to simply drive to your destination. Traffic is finally flowing through the community as it was supposed to.
While road construction can, and does, take considerable time to complete, it is amazing how quickly the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation was able to pull these two much needed bypasses together. For that, the people of Watford City, as well as the motoring public who rely on U.S. Highway 85 and N.D. Highway 23 for their daily travels appreciate the speed by which these two bypasses came together.
All told, the state of North Dakota has committed tremendous resources to improving traffic and quality of life in this part of the state with its improvements of four-laning U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Williston, as well as constructing bypasses around Watford City, Alexander, Dickinson, New Town and Williston to the tune of over $409 million. Watford City’s two bypasses alone accounted for $131 million, while Alexander’s bypass cost $28 million.
The opening of the bypasses is one sign that progress is being made to help restore normalcy to the oil-impacted regions of western North Dakota.
But improving traffic flow around the cities is but one of the many needs that places like Watford City, Alexander and Williston have. Hopefully, this legislative session, the North Dakota Legislature will see fit to return a greater share of the oil and gas taxes that it receives to the greatly impacted cities and counties, so that locally, the improvements can continue.