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Retiring head of DOT sees plenty of work to be done

Francis Ziegler

WILLISTON -- Significant improvements have been made for western North Dakota roads, but more work is needed for oil-impacted communities, said the retiring director of the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

Francis Ziegler, who will retire at the end of this week, said the amount of road improvements made in western North Dakota has been significant in context of his 42 years career with the department.

Ziegler said even though there's more work to be done, his department has received positive feedback about the progress being made.

"They recognize that we're doing everything we possibly can to catch up and try to get ahead of industry," Ziegler said.

Examples of recent improvement include passing lanes and enhancements to U.S. Highway 85 between Williston and Watford City and improvements to N.D. Highway 23 east and west of New Town, Ziegler said.

"Traffic counts are out of sight there," Ziegler said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple is proposing a $1 billion increase for roads and infrastructure for the next biennium.

The department is working to make Highway 85 a four-lane highway, Ziegler said. That will take several construction seasons to complete because it will require a major bridge across the Missouri River, he said.

Other priorities include truck bypasses for Williston, Alexander, Watford City, New Town and Killdeer, which are in various planning stages, Ziegler said.

Ziegler, 64, began with the department in 1970 and spent eight years in the Fargo district before holding various engineering positions with the department. He was named director in 2006.