Work continues on new bridge to replace historic Long X Bridge south of Watford City

Replacement of historic bridge continues

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Construction on a new bridge adjacent to the aging and historic Long X Bridge is expected to be completed later this year. The Long X crosses the Little Missouri River on U.S. Highway 23 south of Watford City, near the entrance to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

WATFORD CITY – Bridge building is no small endeavor, and that certainly is the case on U.S. Highway 85 south of here. Construction is well underway on a new and wider bridge that will replace the historic Long X Bridge, a bridge that has etched its place in state history.

The Long X Bridge was built in 1959, an example of what is known as a Warren through truss bridge. It was named after the famed Long X cattle trail that was a route for Texas longhorns being driven to market.

Traffic on the once lonely Highway 85 has become extensive since the arrival of the oil boom in western North Dakota. According to the Department of Transportation, more than 4,000 vehicles use the Long X bridge every day, many of them heavily laden semi’s associated with increased oil field activity.

The decision was made to replace the old two-lane Long X with a wider bridge carrying four lanes of traffic. The bridge replacement is part of a 62-mile long project to four-lane Highway 85 through the heart of oil country in the western part of the state.

“It’s a two year project that started in June of last year,” said Tyler Davis, spokesman for Ames Construction, the company building the new bridge. “The final, final completion will be in July of 2021 but, weather dependent, we hope to have the bridge open by the end of this year.”

The bridge construction is in the midst of more than two miles of construction improvements along a section of Highway 85 through Badlands terrain laden with a variety of soils that are known for constant shifting and moving.

“The new bridge has a unique design to account for the soil conditions,” explained Davis. “There’s a lot of ground monitoring, sensors and everything else that are being put into the bridge to detect moving soil and what not.”

Girders on the new bridge are made of concrete. Five spans cover 790 feet across the Little Missouri River that rises and falls dramatically with snowmelt and rainfall. It also winds through some of the most scenic country in the U.S. and flows under the bridge about 1/3 mile south of the entrance to Theodore Roosevelt National Park-North Unit.

While the new bridge will incorporate the latest in modern design and safety measures, the old bridge has withstood the test of time very well.

“It’s amazing how well built it is and how long it lasted,” remarked Davis.

Some of the historic Long X Bridge will be saved and used again. Rancher Paul Silbernagel has arranged to rebuild a section of the bridge on his property near Linton. This winter, said Davis, the dismantling of the Long X will commence with part of it hauled to Silbernagel’s ranch where it will be put back together and span Beaver Creek. Silbernagel raises Nokota horses, a breed that dates back to the days of Sitting Bull (1831-1890), a Hunkpapa Sioux leader.

Ames Construction is based in Burnsville, Minnesota but the crew working on the new bridge are from the company’s Rocky Mountain division in Aurora, Colorado.


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