Residents affected by the proposed four lane expansion of U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Belfield spoke up regarding the project.
It’s a project that is half through the process before construction begins.
“For Watford City, specifically, Highway 85 is our lifeline,” said Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Economic Development.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation held a meeting Tuesday night to get feedback on the proposed options for expanding U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Belfield.
“This has been in the making for most of my career. It’s fun to see that we actually are making some progress on it,” said Veeder.
This is the second meeting to be held in Watford City since November. Department of Transportation officials say residents last year told them the biggest reasons for a four-lane highway are safety and economic development.
“It’s the most beautiful part of the drive, so let’s enjoy it,” said Bismarck resident Tracy Potter.
Potter says expansion along the seven-mile stretch through the Badlands is a bad idea.
“I really believe that the four laneing of the little area between the Long X Bridge, south about five miles; is both financially expensive and environmentally expensive,” said Potter.
State Officials also discussed options for the Long X Bridge. The first option includes removing the current structure and building a new bridge. The second option includes a new four-lane bridge and keeping the Long X Bridge for trail crossing.The final option includes increasing the bridge’s overhead clearance and keeping the two-lane for one direction and building a second bridge for traffic coming the other way.
“People are dropping off written comments, who might not have felt comfortable speaking up in a public setting. We are hoping to get many more comments in the next 30 days and we will take all of them into consideration,” said Matt Linneman, North Dakota DOT program manager.
Public comments will be accepted until Aug. 26.
You can submit your comments by visiting nddotwilliston.com, click on the U.S. 85 to I-94 project. The estimated cost for this project is between $830 million to $1 billion. Where that money will come from has not been decided.