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Public speaks out on Killdeer bypass project

KILLDEER — Residents here are largely supportive of a proposed bypass that will help alleviate some of the roughly 9,000 vehicles that go through the town every day, but questions remain about the preliminary plans.

During a public hearing on Tuesday at Killdeer High School, the first since an initial meeting in February 2013, Omaha, Neb.-based engineering firm HDR presented possible routes for the estimated $40 million project. Out of 57 scenarios, the firm narrowed the choices down to three based on their respective environmental, social and traffic impacts.

HDR’s preferred alternative would divert truck traffic — most of it related to oil development — to the west of the city on a bypass along 106th Avenue connecting Highway 22 on the north to Highway 200 on the south.

“We badly need a bypass to alleviate traffic danger,” said resident Don Hedger, representing Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing.

Hedger said he supported the west bypass over a proposed route to the east of the city along 103rd Avenue, but questioned whether traffic coming from the northeast wouldn’t continue to pass through town with no connection to the bypass.

Resident Casey Fredericks agreed, noting that although the proposed route is “obviously the best pick,” the project team, consisting of Killdeer, Dunn County, North Dakota Department of Transportation and HDR officials, will have to consider how “to alleviate traffic from the east side of town.”

HDR projects that as many as 14,000 vehicles will drive through Killdeer in 2033 if no bypass is built; a western route will lessen that number to an estimated 4,320 vehicles per day, with 6,330 trucks using the bypass. An eastern bypass would be less effective, the firm predicted, leaving about 8,000 vehicles passing through town and diverting just 3,200 trucks.

None of the 50 or so people in attendance disagreed with the need to address the trucks that congest Main Street — slowing traffic and making it difficult, even dangerous, to cross from one side of the other. Truck traffic, from both tankers and even roustabout pickups, has been an issue for about five years now, since the start of the oil boom, and ignoring it is not an option.

But some residents spoke out against what one man called the city’s short-sightedness, to great applause.

“It seems kind of funny the city wants to get rid of truck traffic” when two wells bring in an estimated 30 trucks per day through the month of May, said farmer and rancher Scott Bice.

“They’re creating a problem they’re trying to fix,” he said after the meeting.

Mayor Chuck Muscha responded that the city has been looking into the cost of moving its water well to a site south of the city, allowing trucks continued access without having to go through the town.

The predominantly ranching and farming community could face right-of-way issues and some land disruptions once construction begins, which HDR estimates should be next April.

“Do you take any consideration for agriculture?” asked David Bice, Scott’s father. “Is any thought given to that?

He suggested building the bypass along First Street Southwest to avoid cutting through farm plots and disrupting farm and cattle operations.

“It’s a major impact,” he said. “It hits you right in the pocket.”

HDR will accept public comment until August 27 via its website and comment cards handed out at the meeting before making a route selection. If its permit application is accepted in October, the firm will again notify landowners. The company expects it will have a final design by December, with continued discussions with the city and Dunn County.

With months to go before designs are complete, some said they feel it’s too early to be concerned just yet.

“I think there will be major consideration as (the bypass) is designed,” said Patricia Hedger, John’s wife. “They’re just picking an entrance.”

“I’m hopeful they’ll go ahead with this,” John Hedger added following the meeting. “No one opposes going forward. It’s a very good first step.”

Faulx is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207 or tweet her at NadyaFaulx.