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Millions in North Dakota road projects complete

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columns Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Greetings from your District 36 senator. The Legislative Transportation Committee met last month. We received an update from the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

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The Transportation Department is working on $592 million of projects this summer. Approximately 50 percent are completed to date (Sept. 21). They should be 65 percent to 70 percent completed, but due to weather conditions this year, some projects will not be completed until the 2012 construction season.

Three projects ($82 million) from the $228.6 million designated for oil impact areas are under contract and will be done this fall. The balance of the work will be done next summer.

The $142 million designated for the 17 oil-producing counties was broken down into 59 projects. These were broken down into 42 paved projects and 17 gravel projects. Dunn County has five projects and Stark County has three. About $10.6 million has been completed to date.

A large number (89) of emergency relief projects totaling $380 million ($264 million state highways and $116 million county roads) are being worked on in all parts of the state.

There are 38 projects in the western part of the state and 51 projects in the eastern part of the state. These projects are due to flooding and excessive moisture the past three years.

The federal government normally reimburses the state for these types of projects, but the state may have to pay for these projects due to the federal government's financial problems. Federal transportation aid for the NDDOT is projected to be $375 million. The state projects to receive 70 percent to 80 percent of these funds this year and next year could be reduced to 50 percent -- again due to the federal government's financial problems.

The NDHP has been taxed to the limit with activity in western North Dakota. The local county sheriffs' departments have had to assist the Highway Patrol with state highway incidents and patrolling state roads. This is taxing the local county budgets.

The increase in traffic, accidents and truck inspections has demanded more hours of work for the officers. Truck inspections are needed due to recent inspections showing 25 percent failure. These trucks have equipment failures and are not up to code. There are also a large number of trucks that are overweight -- some extremely overweight.

The law enforcement personnel are also verifying that vehicles are properly registered in North Dakota.

The new law (SB2207) requires anyone working and living in North Dakota for more than 90 days to purchase a temporary vehicle registration is in effect as of Aug. 1.

The Highway Patrol is issuing tickets and fines of $100 for each violation. This law will take some time to educate new people in the state.

As you can see, the 2011 Legislature has appropriated a large amount of money to help these road infrastructure issues. But, the weather conditions have slowed down the progress of these projects. The projects are also costing 30 percent to 40 percent more than the engineer's estimate due to increasing costs of fuel, labor and equipment. Also, there is a shortage of contractors for the amount of work to be done.

The monthly increase in traffic and the overloaded trucks are not helping the situation. Our law enforcement agencies need to increase staff. Gov. Jack Dalrymple stated the next graduating class of seven troopers will be sent to western North Dakota in December.

The golden goose (oil tax and sales tax income) is great for our state, but we need to keep our roads safe for people to drive on and accommodate the increased traffic. We may have a budget surplus, but I feel we will need most of this surplus to pay for flooding issues and improve our infrastructure of roads, streets, water, sewer, law enforcement, emergency services and housing issues.

North Dakota is a great state -- we need to make it a better state, which requires planning and visionary leaders -- not complainers and naysayers.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please give me your thoughts and concerns.

Nodland is the North Dakota District 36 senator. Email him at glnodland@nd.gov.

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