Billings County’s master plan to build a another bridge to cross the Little Missouri River took one step closer Monday night, but before it can become a reality they need to get the public’s approval and land first.
At the Medora Community Center KLJ Engineering hosted a public hearing to talk about the draft environmental impact statement for the proposed Little Missouri River Crossing.
The lead agencies for the project are Billings County, the Federal Highway Administration and North Dakota Department of Transportation.
Currently there are two bridges that act as crossings, the Long X Bridge in Watford City and Interstate 94 in Medora which are 70 miles apart.
“It’s a 100 miles around to get to the other side of the river, ” said Jim Arthaud, chairman Billings County Commission.
Arthaud said Billings County has been discussing the idea of adding another bridge since 1979.
“Its a big impact on our roads and county by the repetitious travel, and the time is now”.
During the presentation, the preferred alternative discussed would be to connect Belle Lake Road to East River Road, and it would also improve two miles of new roadways and construct a 600 foot bridge.
Billings County Sheriff Pat Rummel said a new bridge would help with emergency services, and Arthaud said it would also aid with commerce and recreation services.
Jan Swenson, executive director of the Badlands Conservation Alliance, who was in the audience, said it seemed to her as though the project was more for the oil industry than for emergency services or recreation purposes, and she wasn’t sold on it by the people who supported it.
Jen Turnbow, of KLJ Engineering and project manager, said the preferred alternative, also known as Alternative K- Option 1, “is the least amount of length . . . work. . . . and has the lowest cost”.
The project would be 8.3 miles in total length and cost an estimated $11.2 million dollars.
However, to make the project work 62 acres of permanent ROW, and 13 acres of temporary easements would have to be acquired from private land owners.
“There are alternatives for public land, and I don’t think private landowners should bare the burden and suffer, ” said Douglas Ellison who attended the hearing.
Ellison also asked if eminent domain would be inflicted upon landowners who didn’t want to sell their land.
During the days events other landowners voiced concerns about private land being used for the project instead of public land,
The 45 day comment period for the draft ends on August 20, and people who attended made sure their voices were heard.