February 27, 2013

Residents want U.S. 85 bypass west of Alexander

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Eleven months ago when Alexander residents were first given a look at the options that would create a bypass of U.S. 85 around their community, they were adamant that they preferred a route on the west side of town.
And those wishes have changed very little in the ensuing months. In fact, if anything, residents of this community who are seeing up to 12,000 vehicles a day pass through Main Street, firmly believe that a bypass on the west side of the town is the only viable alternative.
“At the first meeting, 95 percent of the residents said that they wanted the bypass to be on the west side of the community,” stated Wade Aasen. “Of the five alternatives that we are seeing, only one option is the one that we want.”
That preferred route, according to Aasen, is Alternative B, which would divert traffic approximately one-half mile west of Alexander’s current city limits.
During Thursday night’s meeting, representatives of KLJ, the engineering firm that is preparing alternatives routes that would eliminate the high volume of traffic from the city’s Main Street, along with members of the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation were in Alexander to solicit comments before the final route is selected.
“No decision as to the preferred route has been made at this time,” stated Troy Ripplinger of KLJ. “That decision will be made after this meeting.”
According to Ripplinger, of the five routes being considered, three would be on the east side of Alexander, while two of the routes would take U.S. Highway 85 to the west of Alexander.
Residents of Alexander were emphatic that they did not want any route that would take the new highway near the existing school or impact upon proposed residential and commercial developments, which two of the east routes would.
“Routes D and E would both impact our school, and none of the developers want Route F,” stated Aasen of the three routes that would take Highway 85 on the east side of Alexander. “I don’t want to see a four-lane highway with speed limits of 65 mph in town and that close to our school. We are all for Route B.”
According to Ripplinger, the rerouting of U.S. 85 around Alexander is designed to accommodate increased traffic demand, improve safety within Alexander, as well accommodate the Dept. of Transportation’s plans to four-lane that stretch of highway from Watford City to Williston.
Alternative B, which is the preferred route of Alexander residents would carry an estimated $24,715,700 price tag and requires 3.7 miles of new roadway. The cost of the other options ranged from $19,182,000 to $43,595,800 and would require from 2.7 to 5.6 miles of new roadway.
The rerouting of the highway around Alexander, according to Gabe Schell of KLJ, would consist of two lanes of traffic in both directions with a 20-foot median.
According to Schell, construction of the project is anticipated to begin in 2014.