Voters this fall in North Dakota will make decisions on various issues that stretch from the Beltway to around the block.
One office on ballots is for governor. Sitting Gov. Jack Dalrymple, a Republican, is seeking re-election against Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor, D-Towner.
During Dalrymple’s four years in office he has more than doubled the state’s roads and highways budget. If re-elected, he has no plans to slow the trend. About two months ago he unveiled a two-year, $2.5 billion road plan that addresses North Dakota’s increased truck traffic.
Less than two years after the state’s biennial budget for roads and highways totaled $609 million, the governor said the increased need for better roadways is largely attributed to the 17 oil- and gas-producing counties in western North Dakota.
His plan unveiled in July would benefit projects around the state. It follows up the $1.3 billion infrastructure initiative for the 2011-2013 biennium, which focused on western North Dakota.
Money to pay for improvements in the latest round would come from a mix of federal and state funds, including tax revenue from the oil and gas industry.
Referring to the “unprecedented time of growth,” the governor said his initiative calls for a new $1 billion enhanced road and highway fund for one-time investments. Projects would include highway maintenance work, truck reliever routes around cities, upgrading two-lane highways to four lanes in the oil producing counties, and for underpasses.
Another $145 million would be used for county and township roads affected by heavy use. A special $100 million distribution would go to non-oil-producing counties.
The Dalrymple administration notes that the roads in western North Dakota were never designed to hand the heavy truck traffic they carry daily.
“State assistance is needed until these county highways are rebuilt and local oil revenues increase to a level where counties can sustain the maintenance on their own,” Dalrymple said in prepared remarks.
To assist counties in increasing revenues, the governor is also proposing that they be allowed to retain overweight fines collected on county highways. Currently, the fine revenue is routed to the state.
Dalrymple would likely need to be re-elected in November for the plan to move forward. His opponent has said the investment was needed a year ago.
A year ago Dalrymple signed two notable bills.
One rule change authorizes a regional permit system on excess size or weight vehicles. The Highway Patrol and state Department of Transportation have the ability to reach agreements with other states about the regional operation or movement of “nondivisible oversize or overweight vehicles.”
Affected vehicles are allowed to move from one state in the region to, or through, another state or states in the region under a single-trip permit.
Dalrymple also signed into law a road safety effort. The rule authorizes tougher penalties for drivers who use roads closed due to harsh weather. Specifically, travelers who drive around barricades to access the closed road could face $250 fines. Driving on a road that isn’t barricaded would carry a $100 fine.
For more 2012 election coverage from Land Line, click here.
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