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Dickinson officials take NDDOT members on tour of city's trouble spots

Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel explains the troubles the city has seen around town to North Dakota Department of Transportation officials on a Thursday tour of the city which was part of a transportation meeting.

Dickinson officials took members of the North Dakota Department of Transportation on a tour of the city to demonstrate the traffic congestion brought on by a recent oil boom and increase in population on Thursday.

Officials talked about safety concerns and

are ultimately looking for money for road improvements.

"The figures surprise me," said Grant Levi, NDDOT deputy director for engineering. "It's good to get a local perspective and see the need because you seem to hear a lot in the media about the housing challenges, but the high cost of transportation improvements is not communicated outside the transportation community."

City Administrator Shawn Kessel said the city's priority is an approximate $7 million to $8 million truck bypass/North Business Loop.

The city hopes the DOT will provide

$6 million.

The project is meant to re-route truck traffic which will lessen congestion and safety concerns in town, and provide an alternate north/south route.

"There is a definite benefit in moving truck traffic out of the city," Levi said.

Another stop along the tour was Exit 61 on Interstate 94. The exit meets up with Highway 22/ Third Avenue West.

Kessel said a $1 million study is underway.

"The exit poses safety and congestion issues," Kessel said. "The north turning movement from the east and adjacent intersection are both concerns."

City officials also expressed troubles with the current grade separation on Highway 22.

"We have had an increasing in traffic type and volume," Kessel said. "It's the only grade separation between north and south Dickinson and we have had many stacking issues, especially on Villard and Broadway."

Besides stacking issues on the intersection of Broadway and Highway 22, Mayor Dennis Johnson said he is worried about the oil tankers and truck traffic on Broadway near the railway.

"There is a potential for fire or accidents and with so many residencies and businesses close by the transload station"

City Planner Ed Courton added there is not much the city can do because the work the railroad is doing fits the zoning and there are federal

regulations protecting them.

"We can't regulate them," Courton said. "For a time the city did not know about the transload station because it was hidden behind buildings. We were informed by the fire station. The problem is it's a potentially dangerous situation but they meet all the requirements."

Levi said the cost to improve the greater Dickinson area is significant and his best advice for the city is to have a solid plan for the projects and make sure everything is on track.

"It takes time and money," Levi said. "I understand it's not always possible with the rate of development but having everything planned and ready to go will give you a better chance at funding."

Johnson said non-residents can sometimes have a hard time understanding what is going on in Dickinson because they don't live it.

He added getting the government to understand and then invest in oil impacted communities will only help them in the long run because it will allow the communities to generate more money for the entire state.