Posted 10/02/13 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
“There is now a light at the end of the tunnel,” stated Brent Sanford, Watford City mayor, at the groundbreaking of the first phase of the U.S. Highway 85 bypass around Watford City. “Our cries have been heard and our needs are being met. This project will mean a huge release in pressure for this community.”
These comments come on the cusp of the beginning of a huge endeavor on the part of the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), as well as the state of North Dakota, the North Dakota state Legislature, the McKenzie County County Commissioners, and Watford City leaders.
The bypass will be constructed in two phases and will take roughly two years to complete. Phase 1 will begin construction within the month and will include a west entrance 3½ miles west of Watford City on U.S. 85 that will re-connect with U.S. 85, 3½ miles south of Watford City. Its projected completion date is at the end of the 2014 construction season.
Phase II, on the other hand, is currently being bid, and the NDDOT hopes construction will begin in March. The second phase will begin at N.D. Highway 23 to the east of Watford City and will connect to Phase I at U.S. 85 near County Road 14. Phase II will be constructed simultaneously with Phase I and is projected to have a completion date of 2015.
“We are taking roughly 3,700 semis per day out of the Watford City city limits,” stated Gov. Jack Dalrymple. “This will make a tremendous difference in the quality of life of the people in Watford City and will create a tremendous change in atmosphere among the people in the city.”
But the Watford City bypass is not the only NDDOT project which is intended to help ease traffic congestion in western North Dakota. The NDDOT is also in the process of completing the first phase of a two-phase four-laning project on U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston.
According to Dalrymple, the state has set aside $72 million to fund Phase I of the Bypass Project and $300 million for the first phase of the U.S. 85 four-lane project.
“The Legislature has delivered for western North Dakota in ways that most people do not understand,” stated Dalrymple. “We have plans to invest $2.5 billion in western North Dakota this biennium, which is an amount equal to the state’s General Fund.”
“Watford City and McKenzie County have experienced rapid growth as a result of the state’s flourishing energy industry, bringing opportunities and challenges to the region,” Dalrymple stated. “The state is committed to helping the area address these challenges by making historic investments in infrastructure enhancements.”
Dalrymple referred to Watford City and McKenzie County as the future of the state’s prosperity, and he referred to Watford City as, officially, the fastest growing city in the United States.
“We need to make these investments to support them,” stated Dalrymple.
Sen. Rich Wardner, North Dakota Senate Majority Leader, echoed Sanford’s statements by stating that the bypass project is more than about re-routing traffic.
“The focus of this project is about getting things back to as close to normal as possible in the midst of the area’s tremendous oil play,” stated Wardner. “We want to restore the quality of life back and we want to restore the public safety.”
According to Grant Levi, of the NDDOT, the first phase of the U.S. Highway 85 four-lane project will be 33 miles long and is scheduled for tentative completion in the fall of 2014. It will extend from west of Watford City to McKenzie County Road 16 north of Alexander. Phase II will begin next year and will extend from County Road 16 to Williston, and will include the replacement of the Lewis & Clark Bridge over the Missouri River.
In all, Dalrymple stated that the state will invest more than twice the amount of the previous biennium, including funding for highway, county and township road improvements; water supply and water treatment projects and the development of affordable housing, into western North Dakota.
“This place will look a lot different 10 years from now,” stated Dalrymple. “People will enjoy their lives and be part of a great community and they will look back and say, ‘those were the days when great decisions were made and things were accomplished.’”