— Official News Release, Senator Heitkamp —
Continuing the work through her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today joined local community leaders to discuss the importance of building and expanding roads and bridges across the state to improve safety and keep up with the increase of traffic on the roads.
Joined by community leaders from Bismarck, Minot, and surrounding towns, Heitkamp led a discussion about the state’s stressed transportation infrastructure network due to the massive population growth, and talked about how to address North Dakota’s transportation needs. A key piece of Heitkamp’s Strong & Safe Communities Initiative includes building the roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure in North Dakota to keep up with demand. Last fall, Heitkamp launched her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative to help address the emerging challenges in the state as a result of the state’s population boom, and bring a renewed focus to keeping families and communities safe.
The discussion followed Congress’ vote last week to extend for another two months the federal program that enables transportation infrastructure projects across the country, including in North Dakota, before it expired at the end of May. Heitkamp expressed her frustration with Congress for jumping from deadline to deadline, and again pledged to seek long-term, sound policies to build and repair roads and bridges, improve safety, and provide needed certainty for workers, businesses, and construction projects.
According to a NDSU-Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute study, 54 percent of roads in western North Dakota will need improvements like resurfacing, widening, reconstruction, and other maintenance in 2015. Reports show North Dakota’s traffic fatality rate surpassed all other states, reinforcing the need to address these issues.
“As our state’s population has skyrocketed, the stress on our roads is visible. It isn’t just potholes that need attention — it’s serious congestion on the roads, safety risks to travelers driving next to 18-wheelers, and maintenance costs for our vehicles. Through my Strong & Safe Communities Initiative, I’m working to find solutions to help address these challenges by hearing from community leaders about the issues they face. We also need action at the federal level. It was disappointing Congress decided to kick the can down the road leaving support for transportation infrastructure projects throughout the country in limbo. We need long-term solutions to enable these projects to move forward and improve safety. When our roads and bridges our safe, North Dakota families can have the peace of mind to know their loved ones are protected – that’s a goal all of us should want to achieve.”
Heitkamp has pushed for solid, long-lasting policies to address North Dakota’s stressed transportation infrastructure. She has advocated to expand roads to handle increased traffic, particularly in the western part of the state on US-85. When U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited North Dakota in April 2014, Heitkamp stressed to him the agriculture and energy industries’ heavy reliance on the state’s transportation network to move their products to market and emphasized the need for permanent solutions to fix roads and bridges.
Throughout the past several months as part of her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative, Heitkamp has been meeting with North Dakotans across the state to hear their feedback about the new challenges from the state’s rapid growth, including the increases of infrastructure stresses, movement of crude oil on the rails, human trafficking, drug-related crimes, as well as other issues. Through her discussions across the state as well as with her Strong & Safe Communities Task Force, Heitkamp is working to make sure the safety of North Dakota families and communities is a top priority. Click here to view a full list of Task Force members and more information on Heitkamp’s Strong & Safe Communities Initiative.