BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota Capitol will soon welcome visitors with a new public entrance.
State lawmakers have approved $2 million to remodel the Capitol building’s only public entrance before the next legislative session in January 2021. The south entrance is accessed through a tunnel that’s long been closed to vehicle traffic.
Republican Sen. Ray Holmberg said the tunnel would cause winter winds and extreme cold to seep into the Capitol’s ground floor.
“It’s just a terrible entrance,” Holmberg said. “The people who work there on security, they freeze.”
The plan calls for enclosing the tunnel and converting the drive lanes into sidewalks with landscaping, said John Boyle, the state’s facilities management director. The remodel would also improve handicapped accessibility.
“I think overall it’s going to be a lot easier, user-friendly experience for people coming to the Capitol, using that south entrance,” Boyle said.
The south entrance has been the only public access point to the Capitol for more than two years. The North Dakota Highway Patrol restricted some entrances to the public and increased security measures at the Capitol building in late 2016 in response to safety concerns related to protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Boyle said it’s unclear which entrance visitors will be redirected to during construction, which will likely begin next spring.