AP NEWS

North Dakota bridge project progresses amid funding concerns

November 4, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Construction is moving along on a North Dakota bridge, while future funding remains unclear for the rest of an expansion of U.S. 85 expansion through the heart of the state’s oil patch.

Project manager Mike Fanelli said the 2.2-mile segment of the Long X Bridge project should be about half done this season with half the earthwork done and all substructures in place. It’s the only segment of the estimated $479 million, 62-mile expansion of U.S. 85 to yet take shape.

“We are going as long as conditions permit,” Fanelli said.

The bridge will replace the narrow two-lane bridge and realign the roadway over a four-lane, open-deck bridge to be opened to traffic in fall 2020, the Bismarck Tribune reported. It will also include a wildlife crossing under the highway. It will be 30-40 feet east of the current crossing.

After traffic is routed onto the new bridge, crews will conduct salvage and demolition of the old crossing. Any other work will be finalized for 2021 contractual deadline. The cost of the bridge project is $34 million.

The Transportation Department’s traffic count shows that 4,200 vehicles come though the bridge corridor daily. U.S. 85 is a major artery for heavy oilfield traffic.

“We have just an unbelievable number of oversize, overweight loads that hit 85,” said Sen. Dale Pattern, R-Watford City. His legislative district is bisected by the highway.

A department engineer, Matt Linneman, said a timeline for the rest of the U.S. 85 four-lane expansion from Belfield to Watford City depends on funding.

Linneman noted the expansion is a different animal than the $300 million Watford City to Williston expansion completed in 2015, particularly for a 7-mile stretch of “environmentally sensitive” Badlands south of Watford City.

“In terms of Belfield to Watford City, the entire expansion, the short answer is right now there’s no funding identified for to build any of those segments,” Linneman said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com