Continue to improve roads in Oil PatchTurning U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston into an improved four-lane highway can’t come soon enough.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
Turning U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston into an improved four-lane highway can’t come soon enough.
The northwest North Dakota travel lifeline moves a huge and growing volume of traffic. Even recent improvements — $40 million spent last summer widening the 42-mile stretch of asphalt — fall short of “fixing” the situation.
Foremost, it’s a safety issue.
And it’s a matter of cost in time spent on the road, slowed down by heavy traffic.
The state Department of Transportation needs to continue to push at its highway construction “to do” list in the Oil Patch. In relative terms, historically, the DOT is in high gear and everyone should appreciate that. But people who have to get around in western North Dakota are beyond patience.
The DOT is in the process of completing an environmental impact statement on this section of Highway 85, which is necessary before any major improvements can be made. The same goes for the Highway 85 bridge over the Little Missouri River south of Watford City. The state must do its homework, get appropriate approvals and execute a thorough planning process, all before construction work can start.
It’s an aggravating business for the citizens, and there’s a growing sense that the state needs to get past the point of “catching up” with oil development.
In this two-year state budget cycle, roads and bridges in western North Dakota will see more than $900 million in maintenance and new construction. Less than half of that has been spent so far. The rest is still to come.
While planning continues on some projects, other work is ready to go: rebuilding and repairing U.S. Highway 2 north of Williston, widening N.D. Highway 23 east of New Town, expanding N.D. Highway 22 north of Dickinson, adding turning lanes on Highway 22 north of Killdeer to the Lost Bridge, developing temporary and permanent truck-reliever routes at Williston and rebuilding Highway 85 through Alexander.
Ducking road construction has become a science for residents living in northwestern North Dakota.
It’s always important for people to drive safely. But in the state’s Oil Patch it’s critical that drivers are alert and practice defensive driving skills. Improving the highways will help with safety. But more to the point, whoever is behind the steering wheel must be alert and aware when navigating the Oil Patch.
It’s great news that Highway 85 will become four lanes on the important Watford-Williston stretch. It will be even better news when the work is done.