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Our View: State Avenue overpass project must happen

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There’s an old adage that goes something like this: “You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

It’s a great analogy for what’s happening in Dickinson. The city is in the midst of many changes and it has to make a few difficult decisions in the process.

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The one facing our city leaders now is how to placate businesses affected by the inevitable and necessary State Avenue Railroad Overpass project.

Like it or not, the city needs to get this project done.

Not only will an overpass alleviate traffic snarls on the city’s west side, it will help ensure that emergency services can reach both sides of the city if a train is passing through or if the antiquated Third Avenue underpass is flooded by rain.

In the process though, the city must work with the affected businesses to ensure the overpass gets done soon and their businesses continue to operate. And yes, buyouts and relocation assistance for some of these businesses needs to be discussed.

While the businesses may not like the way the State Avenue railroad overpass would affect them, Dickinson is growing at such a pace that the project has become a necessity.

An average of 27 trains pass through Dickinson each day. That’s more than one train an hour hauling cars full of Bakken crude oil, grain or coal. Not many of these trains, most of which haul more than 100 cars, speed through the city. And that’s fine because slower trains are safer trains. But slow-moving trains also mean longer waiting times to get across the tracks, and that doesn’t work in a city that is doubling in size.

Every summer, a flash flood will shut down the Third Avenue underpass for a period of time. In our current situation, there is a good chance an emergency south of the tracks would have to wait for the train to pass or the water to subside, whichever comes first.

Why would a city of nearly 30,000 people ever want to put itself in that situation?

The overpass is perhaps only one of the first of what could be many projects to change the landscape of Dickinson in the coming years.

Not every new project in this town can be built on someone’s old farmland or in what used to be a pasture. Eventually, changes have to be made to existing infrastructure — whether that’s an expansion of Third Avenue West, changes to downtown or improvements to some of the major artery streets — and someone is more than likely going to be negatively impacted by those changes.

Regardless of what happens, change comes hand-in-hand with growth and prosperity. While we’re not exactly used to that in western North Dakota, the sooner we all realize it, the better we all will be.

The Dickinson Press Editorial Board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock and Managing Editor Dustin Monke.

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