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Published August 31, 2009, 12:00 AM

Heavy traffic on N.D. Highway 23 causes safety problems

Residents in north central and northwestern North Dakota said state Highway 23 has gone from a farm-to-market road to one with heavy traffic from oil fields, a nearby casino, the Minot Air Force Base and recreation areas. Some find it scary.

By: Associated Press,

MINOT — Residents in north central and northwestern North Dakota said state Highway 23 has gone from a farm-to-market road to one with heavy traffic from oil fields, a nearby casino, the Minot Air Force Base and recreation areas. Some find it scary.

Robbie Edwards of Plaza said he has 10 semis a day hauling gravel for his company to the oil fields in western North Dakota, and their route includes Highway 23.

Edwards suggests the stretch of highway between Parshall and New Town should be a no-passing zone, and the speed limit in that area should be lowered. He said 65 mph is too fast

“Change the signs, paint the double stripes and away we go,” he said.

He also said the highway should have truck turnoff points at intersections.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Marcus Levings held a meeting last week to discuss the heavy traffic. It drew about 30 people, including area mayors and state and federal officials.

Levings has suggested making Highway 23 a four-lane road from Watford City to U.S. Highway 83. He also asked for ideas on what to do to make it safer.

“You went from a farm-to-market road with minor traffic,” Edwards said. “Now, you have gravel trucks, oil trucks, water trucks, sand trucks ... There’s so much more traffic, but it never was designed to handle anything that extensive.”

The traffic on Highway 23 also includes vehicles pulling boats from nearby recreation areas, as well as missile crews from Minot Air Force Base, missile transports and casino traffic. And in the fall, farmers are moving equipment to their fields for harvest.

“It should be an interesting fall with all of the traffic,” Edwards said.

Laurie Arellano, a spokeswoman for Minot Air Force Base, said the base’s 91st Missile Wing personnel drive about 15,000 miles per year on Highway 23.

“While we have not experienced any increase in accidents in this stretch of the missile complex, we continue to emphasize proper driving techniques and slower speeds,” Arellano said.

The state Transportation Department has started to add rumble stripes to the center and the edge of the road, said Jim Redding, a Minot district engineer. The stripes are pavement grooves with reflective paint that alert drivers when they start to leave the driving lane.

Redding also said crews will be paving and improving six intersections on the highway.

Joan Zavalney and her husband, Bud, live on the east side of Parshall. She said they travel on Highway 23 almost daily and find it dangerous to pass on the highway because of the roads and the terrain.

“There’s no turnoffs for big trucks,” Zavalney said. When the trucks need to turn off the road, traffic is backed up, she said.

Jim Foote, the project manager for Elbowoods Memorial Health Center, drives daily for work between his home about 15 miles south of Parshall and west of New Town, N.D. With the heavy traffic, “It’s getting scary,” Foote said.

“This is the worst this past year, especially this past summer because of the oil activity out here,” Foote said.

“I would highly recommend a truck route in New Town,” he said.

Vonnie Alberts, a congressional and legislative officer for the Three Affiliated Tribes, said a frontage road similar to the truck route in Watford City is one suggestion being discussed.

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