DOT says it’s playing catch-up

2013-01-10T16:35:00Z 2013-01-11T00:42:27Z DOT says it’s playing catch-upBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. - The head of the state Department of Transportation said the department is working to catch up on addressing the needs of the state’s roadways as well as increased demands from the public for service.

DOT Interim Director Grant Levi outlined the current budget and department challenges Thursday morning to House and Senate Transportation Committee members inside the state Transportation Building.

Levi said the DOT will propose a budget of more than $2.7 billion budget to address local and state road needs across the state. A large portion of those needs stem from the growth in traffic in the oil patch, he said.

“Increased traffic volumes (have) accelerated the deterioration of township roads, county roads, tribal highways and state highways in the oil impact areas,” Levi said. “In 2011, North Dakota saw a 10 percent increase in traffic statewide and a 25 percent increase in traffic in western North Dakota.”

Levi pointed to the more than $1 billion in one-time spending on roads in the oil patch. In the DOT budget is $390.1 million for extraordinary road maintenance, $324 million for truck bypass routes in oil patch communities and $300 million for four-laning U.S. Highway 85 between Williston and Watford City. Levi said the road projects are a necessity with the level of growth the state is experiencing.

“It wasn’t designed at all to handle this level of truck traffic,” Levi said.

Because of the state funding that’s being proposed, Levi said, the DOT is looking to apply the majority of federal highway dollars to projects in the eastern part of the state.

He added that the DOT budget calls for $142 million in county and township road funds. It is a continuation of funding that was first initiated in the 2011 session.

The 2013-15 budget also calls for $100 million in transportation funding in non oil-producing counties, cities and townships. The proposal is an increase from the $83 million approved during the previous biennium.

The federal highway funding bill, known as MAP-21, passed by Congress in July 2012 allows for $240.5 million in appropriations to North Dakota in 2012 and 2013.

Rep. David Drovdal, R-Arnegard, asked about the city and township road funds. He noted that out of the 17 oil- and gas-producing counties, five produce the majority of oil: Williams, McKenzie, Burke, Mountrail and Divide.

Drovdal said many of the other oil-producing counties don’t qualify for much, if any, of the state dollars and grants available due to low production.

“They’re not able to qualify as non-oil producing counties (for funds) either, are they?” Drovdal said.

Levi replied that “there are instances where some counties can get both.” He said there are provisions in Senate Bill 2012, the DOT’s Senate appropriations bill, in which oil-producing counties with little or no production could receive funds.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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