Hoeven, Heitkamp, Cramer Urge Federal Agencies to Quickly Review Proposals for Highway Expansion Project Between Williston and Watford City

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, as well as Congressman Kevin Cramer urged federal agencies to review in a timely manner state proposals to expand US-85 highway between Williston and Watford City from two lanes to four lanes.

The federal delegation sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) encouraging the agencies to approve the highway expansion project. The project aims to make the road safer for travelers after expanded energy development of the Bakken formation has led to increased traffic on the highway and heightened public safety concerns. The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) has committed more than $300 million to expand US-85, however, if the federal agencies do not approve the NDDOT’s proposals in a timely fashion, the project may be delayed, putting more drivers at risk.

“The expansion of US-85 is essential for the safety of all North Dakotans,” said the delegation. “Each day, workers and local residents must share the already heavily congested road with large, commercial trucks carrying materials to and from oil fields. In order to make the road safer, it is critical that the expansion of US-85 highway is completed on time, which requires responsiveness from the federal agencies reviewing the project. We strongly urge the USACE, USCG and USFWS to review the NDDOT’s proposals within a suitable timeframe so that North Dakotans soon complete this expansion project.”

A full copy of the letter sent from the delegation follows:

Dear Commander Cross, Administrator Weibusch, Mr. Cimarosti and Mr. Towner;

As federal partners involved in the approval of plans for a four lane widening of US-85 from Williston to Watford City, North Dakota, we write to urge a timely review of both the Environmental Assessment and Biological Assessment that have been submitted to your agencies by the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT).

Traffic along the north-south US-85 corridor has increased dramatically due to the remarkable energy development of the Bakken Formation. While the increased traffic has provided economic growth and many commercial opportunities for North Dakotans in the western part of the state, it has also created public safety concerns regarding heavy road congestion from large, commercial trucks carrying materials to and from the oil fields. The section of US Highway 85 connecting Williston and Watford City is the main transportation artery to the Williston Basin, each day bringing workers and critical equipment to the work sites and carrying thousands of barrels of oil for delivery to refining facilities.

To address the public safety concerns related to increased traffic, and to facilitate the continued commercial success in the oil patch region of the state, the NDDOT has committed over $300 million to reconstruct the two-lane highway to a four-lane undivided highway from the west edge of Watford City to the junction of US-85 and US-2 east of Williston.

In order for the project to be completed on time, a timely review of the proposals to address outstanding environmental and biological issues must be completed. We appreciate your consideration of our request for a timely review and look forward to working with your agencies towards successful completion of the US-85 expansion project.