Four-lane expansion construction underway south of Watford City on US-85

Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 11:33 AM CDT
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WATFORD CITY, N.D. (KUMV) - Construction is underway to expand Highway 85 south of Watford City.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is building a four-lane road from the Long X Bridge near Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Watford City. Assistant District Engineer Bill Gathman said crews have been hauling dirt and pipes since May and gravel should be coming in this fall.

Efforts to expand the highway to four lanes have been led by the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association. Executive Director Cal Klewin said this portion was difficult because of the badlands’ terrain and proximity to the national park.

“There is some property that the park owned on the east side of 85 and that got worked out to where we could move ahead with this project. There’s no doubt it was a challenge with the park and having their blessing, per se, to move this project forward,” said Klewin.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. Meanwhile, Klewin said they are preparing for the next leg of expansion, which will be from the bridge to Highway 200 near Grassy Butte.

“They’re working on some planning and we’re working on funding mechanisms and funding. The challenges on that are unbelievable. We continue to work with it and our goal is to get it to Interstate 94 while the environmental is in place,” said Klewin.

The Theodore Roosevelt Expressway is the northern part of the Ports to Plains Alliance, a planned four-lane corridor connecting North Dakota and Montana to Laredo, Texas. The expressway includes US-85 from Williston to the South Dakota border, US-2 from the North Dakota border to Culbertson, and Montana State Highway 16 from Culbertson to the Canadian Border.

The Ports to Plains Alliance website states they are federally designated as a High Priority Corridor. This designation qualifies the group for special federal funding above and beyond each state’s standard allotment of Federal Highway funds.