Location: Ward County, ND
Client: North Dakota Department of Transportation
ND 23 was pushed to its capacity and beyond as the oil boom in western North Dakota ramped up. The two-lane highway provided access to one of the few crossings over the Missouri River/Lake Sakakawea in its part of the state, and so ND 23 became a key roadway to traffic sustaining the oil industry. Residents and farmers along the ND 23 corridor found their quality of life drop significantly due to increased travel difficulties, and the safety of the roadway became a major concern.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) retained HEI to perform civil engineering services to upgrade 27 miles of ND 23 in an effort to address these concerns. Left turns presented a significant problem for both traffic flow and safety. The busy traffic throughout the corridor would make left turns difficult, and this was further enhanced by the number of semis and other large equipment attempting to make these left turns.
Traffic would come to a complete stop on the 65-mph highway, creating a dangerous scenario. New turn lanes at several intersections now allow traffic to continue past the vehicles waiting to turn.
Passing also became a major challenge. Passing slower moving vehicles became nearly impossible as oncoming traffic rarely let up in either direction. To address this, the HEI team added passing lanes every 2-3 miles, giving motorists regular opportunities to pass larger and slower moving vehicles safely. Previously, drivers performed unsafe passing maneuvers, endangering their lives as well as those of other travelling public.
Motorists also had no room to safely pull vehicles off to due to two-foot shoulders. This project widened shoulders to 8 feet throughout the 27-mile corridor, allowing those stopped for emergencies more space to work safely away from traffic.
The 27-mile reconstruction project not only resolved all the concerns it set out to address but also one that arose during the project. In 2011, during the preliminary planning phase, a historic flood event overtopped ND 23 in some locations. After reviewing several possible alternatives, the NDDOT and HEI moved ahead and completed two separate grade raises along ND 23, raising the roadway by as much as 17 feet.
Motorists who use ND 23—whether they be residents, commercial drivers, or farmers heading to the fields—now have a safer roadway with better traffic flow and new protections against overtopping.