Construction Will Start On US Highway 85 This Spring

US Highway 85 will soon be under construction as the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) approved a $77,229,503.51 bid from Minnesota-based business, Central Specialties, to expand the two-lane highway into four lanes from 23rd St NW (CR30) to Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s North Unit Entrance.

“A connected four-lane system has been discussed by leadership in the state for many years with the main remaining link between I-94 and US 2 along the US Highway 85 corridor. During the oil boom years US 85 was expanded to four lanes between Watford City and Williston. In October 2015 the NDDOT initiated an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to study expansion of US 85 between I-94 and Watford City. The EIS was approved in March 2019 which provided environmental clearance for the highway improvement projects to be built. The first project was the replacement of the Long X Bridge. Now we are preparing for construction of the four-lane segment between Long X Bridge and Watford City,” stated Matt Linneman, Deputy Director for Engineering with NDDOT.

The expansion of the highway will safely accommodate more industrial, agricultural, and passenger traffic as well as oversized loads, leaving plenty of passing room. It will also expand the four-lane highway from the I-94 interchange to US Highway 2, promoting economic development. Slope stability and landslide issues will be addressed and it will minimize wildlife habitat fragmentation and reduce the potential for wildlife related vehicle accidents.

“The first piece of work that will take place is the tree removal, and that will begin in the middle of March. The rest of the project will begin early spring, with our intentions to start as soon as Mother Nature allows,” explained Project Manager and Estimator with Central Specialties, Ryan Beyer.

The construction will be just over a ten-mile stretch, and is estimated to be completed in the fall of 2024. Nearly 2.5 million yards of dirt will be moved, which is comparable to 750 Olympic size swimming pools, and over half a million tons of aggregate base will be crushed and hauled in. The project includes laying over 200,000 tons of asphalt, the installation of more than a mile and a half of pipe, and the construction of three retaining walls. In addition to scheduling to make sure the project stays on track, procuring materials, and being environmentally compliant, Central Specialties will be coordinating with almost 20 subcontractors and working with many different landowners.

“This project also includes funds from McKenzie County to install a pedestrian trail from the start of the project to just outside of the Park,” Beyer added.

The roadway will keep two lanes open throughout construction, though travelers should plan on seeing flaggers out to slow traffic at times.

“There are many unique challenges to a project of this size,” said Linneman, and went on to list, “Ensuring the safety of the traveling public and workers in the construction zone because we will be maintaining traffic during construction. Please be patient and slow down in the work zone. Coordinating with utility companies on the potential impacts to their facilities and getting those moved prior to construction and ensuring stability and reliability of the roadway, especially on the south end that traverses a segment of the badlands.”

US 85 is part of the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway, which is part of the Ports to Plains Corridor. The Port to Plains Corridor was designed to promote trade along the north and south corridors, and begins in El Paso, TX continuing through Oklahoma, New Mexico and Colorado, where it meets the Heartland Expressway, which extends through northern Colorado, Nebraska and into Wyoming. The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway goes from Rapid City, SD, into North Dakota and Montana.

“We are currently working on the surveying, design, utility engineering, permitting, and preliminary right of way needs for the segment between the junction of ND 200 and the Long X Bridge. However, there have not been any funds identified at this point for construction. The NDDOT will continue to work to find a way to fund these projects,” concluded Linneman.


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