By Mike Hricik, The Dickinson Press
State officials say 2014 could be North Dakota’s biggest year for roadwork.
This summer brings one of the state’s largest construction seasons in its history, spurred by a massive influx of oil and gas industrial traffic. Bypasses will be built to divert trucks around Oil Patch cities and existing roads will be changed to fix safety issues.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation will spend about $800 million in highway and county road construction in 2014, according to the DOT.
From 2010 to 2012, the state saw a 53 percent increase in traffic in 17 oil-producing counties in the west, according to DOT. Truck traffic rose by 37 percent statewide in 2012.
The state has devoted $409 million to cover all costs for the construction of truck bypass routes for several western North Dakota cities, including Williston, Watford City, Dickinson, New Town and Alexander.
“(DOT is) really excited to have bypass work underway because it exponentially improves traffic mobility in the region,” DOT Williston district spokeswoman Katie Pizza said.
More independent consultants are designing and constructing roads because of demands on infrastructure, according to the department.
Here are some updates on major construction projects in and around Dickinson for this summer:
– Interim Dickinson truck bypass: An interim truck bypass that will circumvent traffic at northwest side of Dickinson is slated for completion in the fall, DOT Dickinson district engineer Larry Gangl said.
The bypass will extend from Interstate 94 to US Highway 22. The first mile north of I-94, Exit 59 has already been completed.
Contractors have been working for about a month on finishing four more miles of the route, Gangl said.
– 116th Avenue interchange west of Dickinson: Construction on a finalized truck interchange began to weeks ago, Gangl said, and will be finished by next fall.
Crews began dirt work two weeks ago on a truck route that will stretch from Highway 22 to about 2,800 feet south of 116th Avenue Southwest and I-94 interchange, Gangl said.
– Dickinson State Avenue overpass project: Amid a construction boom around Dickinson, one major project is on hold until next year.
Bids will be accepted next fall for the State Avenue overpass project, Gangl said.
Crews will move rail spurs near State Avenue, guaranteeing access to most businesses affected by a proposed railroad overpass along the street.
– New England Highway 21 improvements: Construction will begin in June at the earliest to straighten out a troublesome curve in the road on Highway 21, bordering Slope and Hettinger counties.
“It’s caused trouble for a lot of drivers who aren’t prepared for it,” said contractor Randy Schwartz of Schwartz Construction in New England.
Several accidents have occurred at the curve. The most notorious happened Oct. 12, 2001, when two teenagers were killed and two more were injured while the driver navigated the curve. A bus carrying a Hettinger-Scranton High School boys basketball team on Jan. 13, 2012, rolled off the highway in wet conditions, sending 32 players and school staff members to the hospital.
At least one lane will be open to traffic during two months of construction, Schwartz said.
– Killdeer bypass: A truck bypass for Killdeer remains in its design and route selection phase, said NDDOT spokeswoman Jamie Olson.
Gangl described the design process as very early with environmental assessment reports still on the way for possible routes.
– Four-lane U.S. Highway 85 project between Watford City and Williston: Work continues on this 33-mile project, with its second phase taking up this summer from County Road 16 to Williston.
This summer’s construction will include replacement of the Lewis and Clark Bridge over the Missouri River near Williston, Pizza said.
Crews are also waiting on environmental reports for portions of roadway, Pizza said,
V Watford City Highway 85 southwest bypass: Construction began last year on this $80 million bypass, which will divert truck traffic away from Watford City’s western edge.
A four-lane entrance for trucks will begin 3.5 miles west of Watford City on Highway 85. Trucks will meet up with the highway again 3.5 miles south of the city.
Work will finish near the end of the 2014 construction season, Pizza said.
V Watford City N.D. Highway 23 southeast bypass: DOT leaders broke ground earlier this month on this $50.3 million truck bypass, which will redirect truck traffic from N.D. Highway 23 to the southeast of Watford City, Pizza said.
A six-mile, four-lane roadway will meet the southwest bypass on the south side of Watford City.
Pizza said crews will finish up in the fall, freeing up traffic for Watford City.
V Williston northwest bypass: Beginning west of Williston at the intersection of Highway 85 and Highway 2, and extending north of the city, all phases of this $33 million bypass are in progress.
Two working lanes should be ready for truck traffic by the end of this year’s construction season. ___