Federal, state and city officials took a bus tour over the new pavement of the Northeast Bypass as they celebrated the completion of a seven-mile stretch of the project Thursday.
A ribbon cutting ceremony on the highway was brief due to high winds. The bypass resulted from upgrades to County Road 10A (46th Avenue Northeast) and 55th Street Northeast. Once the 55th Street bridge is completed next summer, the bypass that now connects with the U.S. Highway 83 Bypass at U.S. Highway 83 and loops around the east side of the city will also connect with U.S. Highway 2 & 52 East.
"That is really going to make a difference, I think, in the way the traffic can move around this metro area," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple at a dedication ceremony in City Hall following the ribbon cutting. "This is what we need to do with our resources. We need to respond to this increase in population, to this increase in economic activity."
Jill Schramm/MDN • Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and Sen. John Hoeven, from left, were among dignitaries participating in cutting the ribbon Thursday on the completed portion of the Northeast Bypass in Minot.
The federal Department of Transportation provided $20 million for work that included $3 million in intersection improvements at U.S. Highway 2 & 52 and 55th Street as well as the bypass and bridge. Ward County and Minot provided $3.4 million toward the bypass, and BNSF Railway and North Dakota each provided $1.5 million.
The bypass portion dedicated Thursday cost nearly $10 million to construct.
Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., spoke of the potential loss of federal funds that nearly killed or delayed the project. Hoeven said the federal secretary of transportation likely agreed to the congressional delegation's request to leave the funding on the table because he never thought he'd actually have to deliver. The project had a ways to go in a short amount of time to complete the preliminary work necessary to remain eligible.
"I don't think he felt we realistically could get everything done," Hoeven said. "Maybe that's the difference when it comes to North Dakota. In North Dakota, once we understand what needs to be done, we just do it. I think we surprised them a little bit at the federal Department of Transportation.
"That is the magic of Minot," he added.
Dalrymple said federal funds can't always be counted on. That's why he is proposing a new state special fund of $1 billion for highways for the coming biennium. The money could be used for projects such as four-laning highways, building interchanges or completing extraordinary state highway maintenance.
"I think we have to look ahead and realize that while we have been very successful in history in getting earmarks from the federal government for some of these bigger items, it's going to be more difficult than it has been in the past," he said. "So it's a blessing that the state of North Dakota has an economy that is doing so well that we will have the resources. And if we need to step up and become a majority payer in an interchange or a bypass or a four-lane situation, we can do that."