Not long ago, there were times when western North Dakota highways were like those deserted back roads you see in movies, where a car driving into sunset could look out onto the horizon and see nothingness for miles on end.
Those times are gone for many parts of our area. Today, highways in the Oil Patch are well-traveled and, sometimes, downright scary. Daily truck traffic in western North Dakota has increased from anywhere between as few as 500 trucks per day in 2008 to more than 3,000 in 2012, according to figures provided by the Department of Transportation. Those numbers obviously show no signs of decrease.
This week, The Dickinson Press Editorial Board received separate visits from North Dakota Department of Transportation Director Grant Levi and Sara Otte Coleman, the state’s tourism director. Interestingly, their two sectors of the government are more connected than ever.
Transportation is a major issue in western North Dakota, while tourism is the state’s third-largest industry behind agriculture and energy, and peaks in the summer months — right alongside energy development, agriculture-related travel and road construction.
As May rolls forward and weather improves, energy and agriculture activity, construction and tourism will increase in western North Dakota. In fact, this could be one of the busiest summers ever for each industry.
A growing population means more traffic and drivers who are less knowledgeable about the roads they’re traveling. More traffic means more accidents. As more drivers descend on western North Dakota roads this summer, trips may take a little longer than drivers are accustomed to.
The Press puts a priority on publishing road updates in the newspaper and on our website as soon as they become available, so be prepared and stay informed about what’s going on.
Buckle up, put down the phone, designate a driver, keep your eyes on the road and stay safe.
Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and Assistant Editor April Baumgarten are members of The Dickinson Press Editorial Board.