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Dickinson roads projects continue despite potential federal funding shortfall

The state has planned to pick up where the federal government may fall short -- at least where it pertains to funding road projects.

Dickinson-area highway projects will continue as planned, thanks to an emergency measure passed unanimously in the state Senate and nearly unanimously in the House, as six representatives were absent. Signed by Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Feb. 4, the law provides one-time funding of $620 million out of the state's general fund for the construction and maintenance of state highways. The money is already available.

Because the emergency measure passed, the North Dakota Department of Transportation was able to begin bidding out projects, said department spokeswoman Jamie Olson.

The governor and the Legislature have made a commitment to build and rebuild infrastructure in western North Dakota, Olson said.

"A lot of our projects in the Dickinson area are state-funded," she said. "(Dalrymple) has recommended a lot of money to be put out into the west."

In his budget address in December, Gov. Jack Dalrymple pledged $356 million in one-time funding and the Oil and Gas Impact Grant Fund to address infrastructure needs in the west. He proposed changing the way funding is formulated so Oil Patch counties get more of the oil tax revenue. He also proposed nearly $700 million for the rest of the state's infrastructure needs.

The Transportation Department is still waiting to see if federal funds will come through as part of "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century" legislation that was designed to streamline the highway funding process by combining and eliminating capital categories.

Map-21 also apportioned $37.5 billion nationwide for transportation expenses, according to documents from the Federal Highway Administration. North Dakota's portion, a planned $240 million, is 0.64 percent of that.

North Dakota has received $108.7 million of the $240 million, and it is possible the rest of the money is not coming, depending on congressional action, Olson said.

"We're confident that they will come up with something," she said. "They've always come through. There's always that possibility, though. We just never know."

In February, Paul Benning, a local government engineer for NDDOT, sent out a memo to city engineers across North Dakota informing them the state had received about 45 percent of the federal funding it had planned for in 2013. He asked that cities prioritize road projects in the event NDDOT has to cut back in 2013.

"These are the dollars that were funding the extension of 10th Avenue West; we were intending to use it for State (Avenue) as we extend that to the north," City Administrator Shawn Kessel told the Dickinson City Commission at a recent meeting. "We were slated to receive about $1.7 million in fiscal year 2012 at the end of the year -- so available for this year."

Through negotiations, the city was able to retain most of that funding, he said.

"We're certainly not where we were at -- with the 1.7 -- but we're in a much better position than we had originally anticipated," Kessel said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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