Citizens can influence community projects

More than 50 years ago, area businessmen and others met to determine how to advance improvements to address the need for a four-laned, divided U.S. Highway 2 across the state.

The group of representatives from seven communities along the highway, meeting at the Minot Chamber of Commerce in December 1973, named their association “Concerned Communities for Highway Number Two.”

James “Jim” Maragos was one of the local business people urging the state to four lane U.S. Highway 2. His death this month brings to mind the effort undertaken by him and others in Minot and area communities to make Highway 2 into a four-lane roadway.

The stretch of Highway 2 from the west side of Grand Forks to Grand Forks Air Force Base was converted to four lanes between 1961-1964 and the air base to Lakota stretch was completed between 1979-1984. The four-lane work in Devils Lake was done in 1972, and the four-laning from Berwick to Lakota was done between 1976 and 1986, according to North Dakota Department of Transportation information.

At the meeting in Minot in 1973, Maragos informed the local group, according to The Minot Daily News, Highway 2 is the only coast-to-coast highway across the northern United States. He reported there was no interstate bus service on the highway because of poor road conditions, and he noted 52% of the population of the state was dependent on Highway 2 for service.

The group, later changing its name to Communities for a Modern U.S. 2, spent considerable time on its effort to get Highway 2 four-laned across the state.

The effort by the business people in Minot and area communities to four-lane Highway 2 was similar to an earlier, major effort in Minot that occurred when business people stepped up to bring an Air Force jet interceptor base to this area. Both Minot and Bismarck offered strong bids to have the base located near their respective cities. Minot came out the winner in the selection for a site in this part of the state, announced in 1954.

Communities for a Modern U.S. 2 faced some opposition as well, but ultimately, the Highway 2 four-lane project west was completed.

David Finley, a spokesman for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said the segment from Williston to Minot was completed in the fall of 2008. He said there is roughly 11 miles of two-lane highway remaining west of Williston, from the Montana line to near the junction of N.D. Highway 1804.

Today, it is hard to imagine U.S. Highway 2 being a two-lane road instead of four lanes. With the oil industry traffic and other vehicles, having a four-lane road is much safer than a two-lane road.

Our appreciation goes out to the local and area business people who diligently worked on the effort to four lane Highway 2. That group provides a good example for today’s community activists and organizations to follow when action is needed and perseverance required to accomplish a goal.


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