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City postpones and updates I-94 east business loop project

Dickinson will postpone its Interstate 94 east business loop project for a few years in order to secure extra upgrades to the project. The city began designing an upgrade to the business loop between its intersection with 10th Avenue East and the...

The Dickinson City Commission met Monday evening at City Hall. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson City Commission met Monday evening at City Hall. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press

Dickinson will postpone its Interstate 94 east business loop project for a few years in order to secure extra upgrades to the project.

The city began designing an upgrade to the business loop between its intersection with 10th Avenue East and the interstate. The city was looking to create an urban section of the road - meaning the project would include curbs and gutters, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said at Monday's City Commission meeting.

The design the Department of Transportation (DOT) was creating did not include these features, so the city appealed to them to negotiate additions to the project. The section of the road is in good shape, having been overlaid about 2.5 years ago. It should last another seven to 10 years as a result, he said.

"So knowing that we had good pavement and knowing that we wanted an urban section roadway out there, we started to negotiate with the DOT," Kessel said.

The city negotiated a shared-use path on the north side of the road, which will be lit, and a "hybrid urban section road." The city has not yet decided whether the 10th Avenue East intersection will have a traffic signal or roundabout.

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While the original proposed plan would have cost a bit more than $9 million, the new plan with the upgrades will cost an additional $2 million and construction will be delayed until 2021 to break ground and design beginning in 2019-2020, Kessel said. The project is contingent on available funds, but currently the cost is expected to be covered by about 80 percent by the federal government, 10 percent by the state and 10 percent locally.

"You don't get an opportunity to re-do sections of roadway like this very often, especially through DOT, so whatever gets completed there will probably be there for the next 30-50 years," he said. "Yes, it'll postpone some construction, but I think we believe that it will be better construction when it's complete."

Mayor Scott Decker said he thought it was a good agreement. This way the city will only tear up that stretch of road once.

Rating drop

Dickinson's Standard & Poor's rating - which looks at economic conditions of the city - dropped one notch for 2016, said Deputy City Administrator Linda Carlson. In the past, the city received an A- rating but was recently awarded BBB+.

"I think with the economic experience that we have now from the A- to a BBB+ is still a very positive bond rating for the city," Commissioner Carson Steiner said. "And in light of things picking up here and so on... I don't know what the gap was between the A- and BBB+, but I would think with the little bit of the increase that we're seeing now that in one year we might bounce back up."

Kessel pointed to the city's commodity-based economy as one of the reasons for the drop in rating since commodity prices have decreased. The city's debt was another factor, he said, adding that he has a plan to share with the commissioners during budget season to pay off the city's debt faster.

Decker said the economic struggles pertain to the whole region, not just the Dickinson area. Kessel agreed, saying Dickinson has maintained a slightly higher bond rating than other cities in western North Dakota. He also does not think the rating will affect the city much because the city does not issue debt. If the city decided to do so, it would only face a slight bump in interest, he said.

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"I think it's also incumbent to say that our finances are strong, that this isn't a reflection of those; it's more a reflection, again, of the economy," he said.

The next City Commission meeting is July 10 because of the holiday the week before.

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