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Heitkamp discusses transportation with new U.S. secretary

With transportation usually at the forefront of issues discussed in booming western North Dakota, the state's junior senator on Friday met with new U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx to mull over the more pressing concerns.

"As the Oil Patch continues to support America's need for energy, North Dakota's much-used air and ground transportation infrastructure requires increased attention -- especially in rural areas and on our reservations," said Heitkamp in a statement released following her meeting with Foxx in Washington on Friday. "Policies must be in place to support rural transportation and the interstate highway system, which are crucial to both the economy of North Dakota and to the economy of the nation."

During the meeting, Heitkamp told Foxx of the need for continued investment and pitched her state's case for locating an Unmanned Aircraft System test bed in Grand Forks. Heitkamp also emphasized projects such as the widening of Highway 85 and the expansion of airports in Dickinson and Bowman, among other North Dakota cities.

"I had a gentleman who has flown hundreds of thousands of miles with the National Guard who told me that the situation at the Williston airport is very dangerous because there is no tower there," Heitkamp said. "Everybody wants to cut budgets and everybody wants to focus those cuts on domestic spending, but, if you added up the kinds of needs that we have in North Dakota, those numbers are huge. We have to get this country back to regular order and realize that we have to build airports and roads and take care of our infrastructure."

Though she said it was not DOT policy to comment on private meetings, department spokesperson Susan Hendrick stated in an email Friday that Foxx is "looking forward to working with Sen. Heitkamp on the issues that affect North Dakota."

In 2012, there were 170 roadway fatalities in North Dakota while 71 people have been killed on state roads to date this year, according to North Dakota Highway Patrol statistics.

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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