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Published September 24, 2013, 08:42 AM

Work to begin soon on Watford City bypass project

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — State transportation officials are launching a multimillion-dollar traffic bypass project in the Watford City area.

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — State transportation officials are launching a multimillion-dollar traffic bypass project in the Watford City area.

The 8-mile bypass will route U.S. Highway 85 traffic around the south side of the oil patch city where traffic has become heavy in recent years.

"This new bypass will take truck traffic out of the heart of Watford City where about 3,700 trucks travel each day," state Transportation Director Grant Levi said in a statement. "The Watford City bypass is one of the major projects we are doing to enhance traffic movement on U.S. 85."

State and local officials gathered Tuesday for a ground-breaking ceremony. Construction is set to begin next month, and the second phase of construction is expected to begin in February. The entire bypass project could take two years.

"This one's big. It's a big day for Watford City and it's something that's been discussed and asked for seven to eight years," Mayor Brent Sanford told The Bismarck Tribune. "It's been needed, but we can see it happening now."

North Dakota is working to beef up the highway infrastructure in the oil patch to handle the increased traffic, with $1.5 billion dedicated to road improvements in the region over the next two years.

The bypass is a separate piece of an ongoing $300 million project to turn the two-lane U.S. 85 into a four-lane highway between Watford City and Williston.

"Everyone will be safer in a couple of years," Sanford said. "We can see the light coming at the end of the tunnel."

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