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Western North Dakota Energy Roundtable addresses key transportation and infrastructure issues



WATFORD CITY, ND — The 2024 Western North Dakota Energy Roundtable convened at Watford City’s Roughrider Center on Wednesday, May 22, gathering community leaders and notable figures such as Lt. Gov. Miller. The event aimed to facilitate discussions on transportation issues in Western North Dakota, bringing together diverse perspectives from state, county, municipal, township and industry personnel.

The event, moderated by Geoff Simon, Executive Director of the Western Dakota Energy Association (WDEA), and Matt Johnson, Western Transportation Liaison Engineer, included updates on ND DOT projects and other key topics.


Ron Henke, ND DOT Director, discussed the U.S. Highway 85 expansion, covering 62 miles from the Interstate 94 interchange to the Watford City Bypass, which has an estimated project vost of $479 million. The project aims to upgrade the highway from two lanes to four, including rehabilitating the Long X Bridge. Preliminary engineering is underway, with construction funding pending for the section between Belfield and Highway 200.

The ND DOT is creating a plan to complete the expansion of US Highway 85 to four lanes, funded by $175 million allocated through

HB 1012

. This project is underway, with the plan due by August 1, 2024.

HB1012 allocates funds to the DOT, establishes the Legacy Earnings Highway Distribution Fund and Township Highway Aid Fund, and designates State Highway 13. It amends sections on the flexible transportation fund, motor vehicle excise tax allocations, and township roadway funding. The act includes exemptions, reporting requirements, a legislative study and declares an emergency.

The U.S. Highway 85 expansion will upgrade 62 miles from the Interstate 94 interchange to the Watford City Bypass from two to four lanes, including rehabilitating the Long X Bridge. The project, estimated at $479 million, is in preliminary engineering with funding pending for the Belfield to Highway 200 section.

The Dickinson Press

Flexible Transportation Fund

Henke also covered the Flexible Transportation Fund (Flex Fund), established to complement the Federal Aid Highway program. The Flex Fund aims to improve infrastructure on and off the state highway system and beyond it, targeting townships, cities and counties. It provides matching funds for federal grants, supports staffing, facilities, and operational costs, and offers sustainable flexibility to augment traditional funding for significant projects. For more details, visit

  • 25% Set-Aside: For non-oil-producing counties and townships.
  • Partner Allocation: For any city, county, township, or Tribal Nation in North Dakota.

Reduced Conflict Intersections

Henke highlighted Reduced Conflict Intersections (RCIs) to reduce fatalities from broadside crashes. RCIs simplify driver decisions by altering left-turn movements. Some of the first RCIs will be built in Willington at US-2 and North Dakota Highway 1804.

Three RCIs are being constructed on US 2 between US 85 and ND 1804 west of Williston. Following an NDDOT safety review, these RCIs are set to be completed by the end of the construction season to reduce crash fatalities by simplifying left-turn movements.

Cerilon GTL Plant in Marley Crossing

The Williams County Board approved a $10 million loan to Cerilon GTL ND for a Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) plant in Marley Crossing. The plant will produce 24,000 barrels per day with carbon capture, creating 1,000 construction jobs and 95 permanent jobs. This supports North Dakota’s carbon neutrality goals and reduces natural gas flaring.


Jeremy Olson, North Dakota State Representative, was a speaker at the 2024 Western North Dakota Energy Round Table

The Dickinson Press

Simon, the WDEA Executive Director, presented an overview of the association’s recent activities. The WDEA, led by President Supt. Leslie Bieber and Vice President Mayor Lyn James include representatives from various districts, cities and counties in North Dakota’s oil and coal regions.

  • Legislative Engagement: Daily lobbying on crucial issues, CO2 regulation education, and oil and gas tax distribution updates.
  • WISE Roads Project: Completed in 2023.
  • LoadPass Permits System: Expanded to more eastern counties.
  • HB 1014: $125M for wind/hydrogen fertilizer, $30M in grants, $250M loan authority to CSEA, $3M for litigation.
  • SB 1286: Eliminated the oil tax trigger.
  • HB 1511: Incentives for extracting rare earth elements from lignite.
  • HB 1012: Road and bridge funding.
  • HB 1020: Budget support for NDAWN and Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute.
  • HB 1170: 15-year property tax exemption for new gas distribution systems.
  • SB 2334: $20M for Williams County if Cerilon is built.
  • SB 2289: Comprehensive energy policy development.
  • Funding Support: Increased K-12 funding, school construction loans, free school lunches, and CTE funding.
  • School Choice: Supported HB 1532, leading to an interim study after a veto.
  • Childcare Package: $22M for childcare assistance, $15M for infant care incentives, $5M for private sector projects, $2M for worker training, and $3M to improve childcare quality.

Additionally, guests participated in a Q&A session with the ND Highway Patrol and local law enforcement. The panelists included Matt Johansen, McKenzie County Sheriff; Gary Kuhn, Dunn County Sheriff; and Sergeant Dave Kolness of the NDHP. They provided valuable insights into the activities and challenges they encountered on the highways in Western North Dakota.

Additional guest speakers included Brent Bogar and Joelle VanderLinden, who have LoadPass permits, and Brady Pelton, Vice President and General Counsel of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, among others.

For more information on the Western ND Energy Round Table, visit their



Manny is a journalist with a diverse background in communications. Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, he earned his degree in the DFW area before venturing to New York City. There he worked as an ethnic media reporter, covering local issues and immigration news. A long history of dedication to sensitive reporting, Manny’s journalistic journey has led him to Dickinson where he takes on the role of a hard news reporter.

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