Study: $900 million needed for oil patch roadsBISMARCK (AP) — County and township roads that bear much of the heavy truck traffic from western North Dakota’s oil industry will need more than $900 million for construction, repairs and upkeep during the next 20 years, a new study estimates.
BISMARCK (AP) — County and township roads that bear much of the heavy truck traffic from western North Dakota’s oil industry will need more than $900 million for construction, repairs and upkeep during the next 20 years, a new study estimates.
The survey, done by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, includes state oil regulators’ estimates that North Dakota’s oil-producing region could see more than 20,000 additional wells drilled within the next 10 to 20 years.
North Dakota had about 5,200 producing oil wells last month. Each well drilled normally requires more than 2,000 trips by heavy trucks that carry equipment, water, sand and other materials, the report says.
The report’s researchers did traffic surveys in 15 of North Dakota’s 17 western oil-producing counties last August, and collected additional data from county road maintenance departments.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple used the report’s preliminary conclusions in recommending the 2011 Legislature spend $142 million on county and township road repairs in the next two years. Dalrymple’s budget plan also includes $229 million in additional aid for the state’s road network in the region.
Dalrymple and Shane Goettle, director of the state Commerce Department, said Friday they believed the state could raise the immense sums detailed in the report if the pace of the oil industry’s development continues. Goettle said he was confident western North Dakota’s oil boom would continue for a minimum of five years.
“We can make the kinds of investments we need to keep the oil activity going,” Goettle said.
The report was commissioned by a group of western North Dakota counties that produce oil and gas and have been advocates for increased state aid for road upkeep. Its estimates apply only to county and township roads. They do not include any roads the state is responsible for maintaining.
It says counties have 958 miles of paved and 12,718 miles of unpaved roads that carry significant oil industry traffic. Almost all the unpaved roads have gravel surfaces.
Of the paved roads, 256 miles need costly reconstruction work, and 249 miles need thicker asphalt overlays to bear the weight of heavier vehicles, the report says. The improvements should minimize the need for weight restrictions in the spring, when less robust roads are weakened by spring thaws and can be vulnerable to damage by heavy loads.
The report estimates that about $340 million will be needed over 20 years for construction and repair of counties’ paved roads, and another $567 million for unpaved roads. About 1,420 miles of unpaved roads should be rebuilt, the report estimates. The money estimates are not adjusted for possible inflation in the future.
The report recommends accelerating the upgrading of paved roads by spending $229 million of the $340 million estimate during the next four years to minimize the need for spring weight restrictions, which it said results in costly losses of economic activity.
Goettle said the state would pay about 20 percent of the expense of improving gravel roads in counties and townships. Dalrymple said his budget plan envisions the state paying all of the cost of rebuilding paved county roads affected by truck traffic.
“On some of the paved miles, they (counties) absolutely need help getting over the hump,” Dalrymple said Friday. “The roads don’t just need maintenance. They don’t just need tending to. They do need to be reconstructed in order to handle the heavy loads.”