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DOT studying areas for Dickinson bypass

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is making plans to construct a bypass northwest of Dickinson to connect Interstate 94 and Highway 22. Officials said Saturday the bypass is needed to help get semis, like the one traveling northbound on Highway 22 above, out of the city.

The first stage of building a truck bypass around Dickinson is under way, officials said Friday, which could help alleviate some of the traffic troubles in town.

"(The bypass) will make it less congested in town, make it safer for the traveling public," Project Manager Richard Stoppelmoor said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has released a diagram of study areas for potential routes for the northwest bypass, which will connect Interstate 94 to Highway 22 north of Dickinson. It will give semi drivers the option to avoid driving on city streets.

The DOT has presented two options. Engineers could connect the bypass to Exit 59 or build an exit to connect to 116th Avenue Southwest. From there, the bypass would go north to 34th Street Southwest or 33rd Street Southwest, where it would head east to connect to Highway 22.

The DOT is also studying 32nd Street Southwest as an option. The bypass could be built to take semis further north on 113th Avenue Southwest, the street connected to Exit 59.

Stoppelmoor said he didn't know which route would be the best option since planning was in the early stages. He also said there was no clear estimate for the project's cost.

The DOT is conducting an environmental assessment to evaluate all possibilities before making a final decision. Stoppelmoor said plans for the bypass should be complete in March 2013.

"My anticipation is, depending on how much work there is, this could be possibly done in 2013, if not, then 2014 by the latest," he said.

Increased oil production has brought more vehicles to the area, Stoppelmoor said. A 2010 vehicle count revealed that 3,600 travel on Highway 22 daily. The DOT will conduct another count this month.

Al Heiser, Stark County road superintendent, said the bypass is something that has been needed for years, especially with the increase in semi traffic.

"You get over here to the middle exit here in Dickinson, nobody can get off going north," he said. "That's almost impossible."

Heiser said there has been some controversy about the bypass, including where it should go. He added people will not have to wait long to include their input on the bypass at public hearings.

Mayor Dennis Johnson said it is just a question of how far west it goes.

"That's what the study is all about, is to recommend the optimum route to us," he said. "It's bound to impact someone, some citizens, in a negative way, but I think, for the betterment of the larger group, we do need a bypass."

The DOT did not specify when the study would be complete or when the results would be released to the public for review.