If there’s a highway in southwest North Dakota, odds are part of it is under construction.
A North Dakota Department of Transportation engineer in Dickinson said more than $200 million in reconstructions, widenings and chip seal projects happening this summer were necessary in order to ensure the department received legislative surge funding allocated to it.
“There’s a time limit on it. So we had to do a few more projects than we’d like,” said Rob Rayhorn, assistant district engineer for the NDDOT’s Dickinson District. “It’s a lot for the public to take for this year. But if we don’t take it, the project won’t be there next year.”
Nearly half of Interstate 94 is under construction from the Montana border to Gladstone — a stretch of about 72 miles — and the bridge off I-94 into South Heart has been closed all spring and summer for reconstruction. It should reopen by mid-September, Rayhorn said.
Dickinson city engineer Craig Kubas, who is dealing with city construction projects that add to the congestion, said a road trip to the Pacific Northwest showed him just how busy the area is.
“We drove out to Seattle last week and I don’t think there was as much construction from Wibaux to Seattle as there was from Beach to Gladstone,” Kubas said. “But when someone says here’s the money to fix that highway, you go out and fix it. You don’t wait for the next time.”
The 13-mile stretch of construction on the westbound side of Interstate 94 west of Medora won’t be complete until November, Rayhorn said. The projects between Belfield and east of South Heart should be complete by mid-October. The construction on the eastbound lane between Dickinson and Gladstone is nearing completion.
Off I-94, there are several other projects that will remain under construction well into the fall, Rayhorn said:
› The Dickinson and Killdeer bypass projects — which cost a combined $34 million — have been under construction since 2015, but should be done within the next couple months.
› The $25 million State Avenue bridge railroad overpass project in Dickinson should be complete by the end of October.
› A $50 million project to widen and create passing lanes on state Highway 200 between Killdeer and the U.S. Highway 85 junction will wrap up in October but will continue in 2017.
› A $2.6 million project to create turn lanes on state Highway 22 and Third Avenue West in Dickinson between Museum Drive and 15th Street West should be complete by November, though part of that project includes additional city work on Museum Drive that’ll ramp up in the next week.
› A 19-mile reconstruction project on Highway 49 south of Beulah to the Morton County line cost $25 million and is expected to be complete by early November.
› Miscellaneous chip seal, pavement striping and overlay projects throughout the area — including work north of Dickinson on Highway 22, and on Highway 85 from Bowman north to the Highway 21 junction — that cost a combined $18 million.
In Dickinson, Kubas said the $1.3 million project to redo the Museum Drive’s entrance onto Third Avenue West will include new concrete, curb and gutter, sidewalks, overhead lighting and street lights. He said it’s similar to a project done on the other side of the road at 12th Avenue West three years ago.
“Everything is kind of in phases so businesses keep one of their entrances open at a time,” he said.
He said the city is urging people to avoid that intersection when they can.
Kubas said there are other construction projects yet to start in Dickinson. One is a water main replacement on West Villard Street near State Avenue, which will include some lane closures. Another is a mill and overlay project to fix rutting in the lanes at the corner of State Avenue and Fairway Street that’ll only last a couple of days.
“It’s a minor fix, but it needs to be corrected,” Kubas said. “We’re planning a bigger intersection improvement there.”
Rayhorn said this has been a good summer for construction costs, as well, as costs are down considerably because the prices of crude oil and diesel fuel have dropped and contractor and construction firm availability has risen.
“The availability of contractors and the price of fuel has helped us out,” he said.