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Some want feds out of the way when it comes to transportation plans

The North Dakota Department of Transportation offered the public a "30,000-foot level look" at the state's transportation system Tuesday.

At the public meeting attended by two community members at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson, Jack Olson, NDDOT assistant director of planning/asset management division, sought input on a long-range statewide transportation plan. A similar meeting was held earlier Tuesday in Bowman.

Discussions began in March at meetings with stakeholders, such as county commissions, township officers and business and industry groups.

Rod Landblom with Roosevelt Custer Regional Council for Development in Dickinson suggested that the state's transportation system could be more easily updated if the federal government got out of the way.

Olson said that is a similar comment made at past meetings, where it was suggested that there be more reliance on local and state government in order to bypass some of the lengthy red tape involved with federal funds.

"Using state and local funds may simply be a way to get projects done faster because states tend to have less demands, even though they still have to follow some federal laws," he said.

Stewart Milakovic with the Planning/Asset Management Division recorded comments from the meeting that will be used to develop a transportation plan.

By Thursday, Olson said 20 meetings will have been held in communities across the state.

Between August and September, the public's responses will be compiled, so that in October the responses with be given to the state transportation director and published for the public to see.

"We'll use the published document to talk with groups about improvements to the transportation system," Olson said. "It will look at surface transportation overall, programs and policies."

This will be the third document of its kind, Olson said.

"Back in 2002, we developed the first document we called the transaction that was a statewide strategic plan," he said. "It had five goals and 16 initiatives that came out of the process.

"In 2007, we updated that document. Each document had about a 20-year look into the future. In 2007, we had six goals. Now, we're updating the document."

To update the document, Olson said there were eight meetings around the state in March to consider the past, present and future of the state's transportation system, from roads to railroads and bike paths.

"Generally, North Dakota has a well-maintained transportation system and it provides a pretty good level of service," he said. "But we could look at what other states and countries are doing to improve safety, security and mobility, which is important to businesses who want to get their products to people around the world."

Olson added that that may help the state to better meet some of the transportation goals derived at the meetings, like providing safe and reliable transportation that considers the environment, promoting private and public sector partnerships and improve the overall performance of the transportation.

Anyone with comments regarding improvements to the state's transportation system go to http;// and complete an electronic survey before 5 p.m. Aug. 17.