ND DOT Bakken progress report

By The Bakken Magazine Staff | November 12, 2014

North Dakota saw a 22 percent increase in traffic state-wide and a 53 percent increase in the oil producing counties according to a progress report from the North Dakota Department of Transportation for a period between 2010 to 2012.

“What we’re seeing is growth in transportation, so there’s an awful lot of challenges ahead of all of us in the transportation business in the cities, counties, and state,” said Grant Levi, North Dakota DOT director.

The state legislature appropriated roughly $2.3 billion to rebuild and repair state highways, city, county and township roads, bypass routes and other infrastructure upgrades in every region of the state, for the 2013 to 2015 biennium.

“We’re very fortunate to have had the state’s governor propose that our state legislative body provide $2.3 billion worth of resources,” Levi said.

With the funds, the North Dakota DOT was able to produce two of the largest construction years in history. The report showed the state allotted approximately $409 million to cover all costs for the construction of truck bypass routes for Williston, Watford City, Dickinson, Newton and Alexander.

“We’re building infrastructure that is essential to serve the industries in the state,” Levi said. “One of the projects we’re working on is the U.S. Highway 85 construction project connecting Alexander to Williston. I’m happy to report that the stretch from Watford City to Alexander is open and functioning.”

Taking the trucks out of the communities to “restore and maintain quality of life in those communities” was a high priority for the DOT team, when they sought funding, Levi said.

A particular project he and the team have been concerned about and are working on is turning U.S. 85 into a four-lane highway from Watford City to U.S. Interstate 94.

Levi has addressed his concern about the level of federal funding coming into the state for highway infrastructure. “We are concerned that when you look at the federal picture in the future that resources just won’t be there,” he said. There is no federal highway investment happening unless Congress is able to pass the funding, he said.

Although the funding for the four-lane highway is uncertain, Levi and team expect a bypass around Watford City, involving U.S. Highway 23 and 85 to be complete by the end of the year.

The North Dakota DOT is currently drafting an environmental document for another four-lane highway project that Levi said, “will take some time,” to go over with relevant parties and could cost close to $1 billion.

Larger loads are also making Levi and his team rethink the road system. Any time there’s an increase in axle weight, he said, road damage goes up at an exponential rate. The DOT’s freight plan, released in June, maps out the DOT’s plan to help create a road system that can handle greater weights.

North Dakota’s unforgiving winters and the DOT’s lack of staffing, are also concerns on top of road damage for Levi’s team and have the department looking for help from outside the department. Outsourcing snow and ice control to private companies has been considered but the department hasn't had any luck securing a provider, Levi said.