North Dakota unveils $878 million worth of construction

The North Dakota Dept. of Transportation unveiled its $878 million construction program for this year, the largest in the state’s history and is urging motorists to use caution when traveling in construction zones, especially on dangerous stretches of “Oil Patch” roads in the western part of the state.

Grant Levi, the newly appointed director of the North Dakota Dept. of Transportation, and other officials held a press conference last week in Watford City to emphasize safety to drivers who will need to navigate the construction zones.

Officials urged motorists to buckle up, reduce speeds, allow extra time and minimize distractions.

“People need to slow down and people need to be patient,” Levi said.

For example, the state plans to expand U.S. Highway 85 to a four-lane highway between Williston and Watford City, a 45-mile stretch of highway that many now avoid completely because it’s so dangerous, with more than 12,000 vehicles, mostly heavy trucks and diesel pickups, using the highway daily, according to a Jamestown Sun report.

During construction “it’s going to be even more dangerous,” said Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford.

Highway work zones, in general, are dangerous, officials noted. Last year, the state had 257 crashes in work zones resulting in two fatalities. Sgt. Tom Iverson with the North Dakota Highway Patrol said during 700 hours of patrolling work zones in 2012, the most common violations were for speeding and following too closely.

The state Highway Patrol will soon step up patrol efforts and add additional troopers which Sanford said will significantly improve driver behavior and safety.

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