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Highway 22 expansion planned

North Dakota Department of Transportation engineers Chad Frisinger and Garrett Hartl show Dickinson resident Jeff Loh design plans for Highway 22 on Wednesday at Dickinson City Hall.

Three lanes of Highway 22 just aren't enough to handle its increasing traffic. That's why the North Dakota Department of Transportation has prepared a $9.5 million expansion project, officials said Wednesday evening at a meeting in Dickinson City Hall.

Construction for the busy roadway is planned from 30th Street Southwest south to the Dunn County line, said Chad Frisinger, a DOT design division transportation engineer.

The project will turn 5 miles of Highway 22 into a five-lane road with less congestion and a higher capacity for vehicles.

The DOT will begin bidding the project in March. Pending funding and contractor specifications, the highway is expected to be completed by the end of October.

"It seems like we are doing it in the nick of time," Frisinger said. "By next summer, I'm sure you will see quite an expanded amount of traffic compared to what is out there now."

Following construction, the highway will feature a center lane for left turns.

"We had so many turn-lane requests," Frisinger said. "It was easier to turn it into a five-lane project."

An oil boom in western North Dakota has brought more traffic to the area. A 2010 DOT study revealed that approximately 3,600 vehicles travel on the highway each day. Garrett Hartl, a DOT design division transportation engineer, said that number could increase to 5,100 by 2030, but he added those numbers were low.

"When we did that count, we didn't know the oil boom would impact this area like it currently is," he said.

The DOT will take another count in two weeks, Hartl said.

"We know the traffic has changed a lot in the last year and a half," he said. "We are going to be able to supply a lot more vehicles on the highway."

The bridge crossing Green River will also be replaced, Hartl said.

"We want to match the structure to meet the needs of the highway," he said, adding a temporary bypass bridge will be used for traffic during the construction.

During construction, speeds will be reduced to 45 mph from the 55 mph speed limit. Speeds will be reduced again to 25 mph at the bridge bypass.

Residents who live on Highway 22 north of Dickinson, like Jeff Loh, are ready for construction to begin. Loh has had a few "close calls" on the busy road.

"I had a guy come out in front of me once," he said. "They wait and get impatient, so they will take off sooner than they should and not wait for you to go by."

Loh said he didn't see any problems with the plans proposed at the meeting. He added that construction is necessary for the flow of traffic.

"My neighbor said it took him 18 minutes to get on the highway," he said. "It should alleviate a lot of the problems for turning and getting on and off the highway."

Thomas McMurtry, a Dickinson-based Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson planner, said it is progressive for the DOT to reconstruct the highway.

"The traffic is growing, and it is going to get worse before it gets better," McMurtry said. "It should allow for decent progression throughout the corridor."