September 30, 2014

With U.S. 85 Bypass open, Alexander back to normal

By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer

The 3.7 mile bypass around Alexander has finally been completed and is now open, re-routing U.S. Highway 85 traffic to the west of Alexander. And with the opening of the bypass, Alexander residents are thrilled to have their Main Street back.
Ever since the oil boom began, traffic on U.S. Highway 85 has surged to over 12,000 vehicles a day passing down Alexander’s Main Street. And with the intense traffic gone, Alexander is finally returning to normal.
No longer will it take 10 minutes just to cross the street to go to the park or check the mail. No longer will farmers have to fight the traffic trying to move their tractors. No longer will there be a constant blanket of dirt and dust swirling in the air. Quality of life and safety on Main Street can now go back to what it used to be pre-oil boom.
“It feels like the ‘old’ Alexander,” said Comet Convenience Store owner Jodi Stover. “Just the other day we were having a conversation outside the store and we could all actually hear each other!”
Along with quietness enhancing the ability to hear one another in conversation, there’s a peacefulness taking place in Alexander. According to Stover, she heard someone say just the other day how they can hear the birds singing again.
“You take for granted those little things I guess, until they are gone one day, and then you get them back and realize what was gone,” said Stover. “And it’s not all in just what you see or hear, it’s how you feel now that  Alexander is back to its old self. It’s an amazing feeling, like a kid riding down the road and taking their hands off the handle-bars for the first time. It’s that kind of a feeling.”
“I love it!” said Alexander Mayor Jerry Hatter. “For the most part, I think everyone thinks it’s great!”
 Stover first noticed that the bypass was open Monday morning, Sept. 22, when she was headed into work and ended up on the bypass. She says County Road 20 is the road that will get people in and out of Alexander from the bypass now.
According to Hatter, the bypass wasn’t scheduled to be complete until sometime in October, so the crews actually finished ahead of time, opening the bypass on Sunday, Sept. 21. And everyone, including the motorists, is very thankful for that. They don’t have to slow down anymore going through town.
“On Sunday, when the bypass opened, it was literally like you went from one world to another,” said Hatter. “It’s so quiet and peaceful again!”
According to traffic reports, nearly 12,000 vehicles were passing through Alexander on U.S. Highway 85 every day. And at least 2,000 of those vehicles were semi-trucks. Now that traffic has been directed out of downtown, the small-town atmosphere is finally making its way back.
“I think the crews that were working on the bypass did a phenomenal job!” said Stover. “They kept on point with their deadline, actually ahead of schedule, and they did an amazing job! When the guys would come into the store, they were so courteous and nice. They just did a remarkable job!”
Hatter added, “The crews hustled right along!”
Stover doesn’t feel that the bypass has really affected her local business. She sees a little decrease in morning business when most of the truckers would come in for their morning coffee. But overall, she thinks her business will be just fine.
“There are still plenty of people coming in!” said Stover.
Other roadway projects still underway include the Watford City Southeast and Southwest Bypass, a New Town Bypass, and a Williston Truck Reliever Route. The four-lane project’s first phase on U.S. Highway 85 between Williston and Watford City that started last year, is almost finished. And the second phase is set to begin sometime next year. The end is definitely in sight for many of these projects with relief to surely follow!