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Published November 27, 2013, 10:02 AM

North Dakota Senate leader wants more state aid for US 85

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — A leading state senator says North Dakota should devote more oil tax money to enhancing U.S. Highway 85, the main north-south corridor in the western oil patch.

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — A leading state senator says North Dakota should devote more oil tax money to enhancing U.S. Highway 85, the main north-south corridor in the western oil patch.

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, is an advocate for turning Highway 85 into a four-lane road between Rapid City, S.D., and the Canadian border — a project named the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway for the former U.S. president who once ranched in the Badlands.

Wardner said the proposed project has always been about creating a corridor for commerce, but with the oil boom, a four-lane highway also is now needed for the safety of local traffic, The Dickinson Press reported.

"This is a quality-of-life issue," Wardner said during a recent annual meeting of expressway supporters, held in Watford City. "We need to make sure that the people in the 19 counties that produce oil and gas are on board with this as we head into the next legislative session (in 2015). I believe that North Dakota will have to carve out some funds from its oil money to make sure the TR Expressway gets done."

The state has earmarked more than $300 million to make the 46 miles between Williston and Watford City four lanes. The project began last summer and is scheduled to be completed in 2015. That's the priority now for the region, state Transportation Director Grant Levi said.

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