June 8, 2011


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

With the tremendous increase in oilfield-related traffic, driving in McKenzie County has become a real challenge in the past year. It doesn’t make any difference whether you are driving on any of the area’s highways or county roads, the amount of traffic on these roadways in unbelievable.
And now with the arrival of summer and the road construction season, the challenges of getting from Point A to Point B are only going to get worse.
In McKenzie County alone, the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation is currently working on major construction projects on U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Williston as well as from Fairfield to Grassy Butte, and on N.D. Highway 23 west of New Town. In addition, work is being planned on U.S. 85 in the Badlands south of Watford City to correct road sliding issues.
Couple those three major road projects with the repair work that is ongoing on N.D. Highways 73 and 22 and you need to realize that getting anywhere is going to take more time than before. And once you clear the construction zones, traffic is going to be bottle-necked for miles.
And then when you throw in the summer recreation season as people from western North Dakota and eastern Montana try to get to Tobacco Garden Resort or to McKenzie Bay, the road issues only get worse. Highway 1806, the main route to Tobacco Gardens, is an absolute nightmare to travel with several sections of the asphalt surfacing of the entire roadway obliterated. Travel speeds on this highway have been reduced to 45 mph. But on a recent trip to the lake over that highway, I would say that even 45 mph is way too fast for the road conditions, as oftentimes I was forced to take areas at less than 5 mph in order not to bottom out in my 4x4 or to lose control. And traveling on Highways 73 and 22 to McKenzie Bay is not much better.
Living with road construction is something that all of us have come to learn to live with. While it can be agonizing to sit and wait for the next pilot car to usher us through the construction zones, there is really nothing we can do to speed up the wait. And deciding to try to make up for lost time once we get back onto the open road isn’t a very safe option considering the level of traffic that is on the roadways today.
The advice for traveling this summer in and around McKenzie County is simple. Drive slower and plan to take more time than usual to reach your destination. And most of all, drive defensively. While you may be operating your vehicle in a safe manner, that doesn’t mean that the driver approaching you in the other lane or the driver that is following you is.
The bottom line is we want everyone to reach their destinations safe and sound. Motor vehicle accidents can and do happen. But by exercising a little self-control and common sense, it can be a safe and enjoyable summer.