BISMARCK, N.D. _ The North Dakota Transportation Department is embarking on its largest construction program ever.

It calls for $878 million in road work, dwarfing the record of $590 million in 2011, said Grant Levi, acting DOT director.

“If you drive just about any major road this summer, you’re going to see construction,” Levi said during a Monday briefing to western North Dakota legislators.

Much of the construction will be in the state’s oil patch, where roads have been packed with trucks and other oil-related traffic.

The most ambitious project on the list for this summer is upgrading U.S. HIghway 85 between Watford City and Williston to four lanes.

Much of that project is slated for construction this year, Levi said.

There will be dozens of other projects, Levi said, thanks in part to a $620 million appropriation the was approved early in the session in order to ensure funding for projects this season.

This year will be the start of an ambitious two-year program that likely will total $1.16 billion in one-time funding once the Legislature finishes its work.

Levi said that in the upcoming biennium the state will pour

$300 million into the U.S. 85 project, $324.7 million into truck reliever routes around cities, and $390 million in extraordinary maintenance and repair.

 Construction of truck reliever routes will begin this year and next and will send traffic around the cities of Williston, Alexander, Watford City, New Town, Dickinson and Killdeer.

Other road projects on the list include upgrades to U.S. Highway 2 west of Williston, N.D. 23 east of Parshall, N.D. 22 north of Killdeer, N.D. 8 south of Bowbells and U.S. 85 near Belfield.

Levi also unveiled some of the design elements for the four-laning of U.S. 85 north of Watford City.

It will include a 20-foot paved median with two 12-foot driving lanes and an 8-foot shoulder on both sides.

There will be rumble strips between the driving lanes and the shoulders as well as between the driving lanes and median.

The median itself will have rumble strips. except in areas where it is used for turning lanes and other access.

DOT has already bid out 227 state and federal projects for almost $538.5 million for this season, Levi said.

It expects to bid an additional $341 million in the next two months.

While there have been fears that a lack of bidders would drive construction prices up, he said that hasn’t been the case.

“We’re seeing more bidders on construction projects than we’ve ever had,” Levi said, with some projects attracting as many as 15 bids.



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