Comment Now On The “Bridge To Nowhere”

A couple of weeks ago I wrote here about the proposed new bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River north of Medora that is being shoved down our throats by a megalomaniac county commissioner who wants to spend up to $20 million of our gas tax dollars on a “Bridge to Nowhere.”

At the insistence of the Federal Highway Administration, the county is deep into an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process—in fact nearing the end stages of that process—and will soon be asking for federal funds to build its bridge. One of the final steps in the process is a public comment period, which is open now and runs through September 4. If you go to this website, you will find the details and a link to another website which contains the actual Draft EIS, for your reading pleasure.

If you have any feelings about running a lot of traffic through the valley of the Little Missouri State Scenic River, or wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, you should send in comments on the project. Below is the letter Lillian and I have sent, expressing our feelings. This letter and my earlier blog should give you plenty of information about the project, so you don’t have to read the entire 178-page document. (Although if you really want to spend a summer afternoon reading, here’s the link to the Draft EIS.)

Even easier, if you agree with what Lillian and I have written, feel free to just copy and paste a link to this blog into an e-mail addressed to LMRC@kljeng.com and tell Ms. Turnbow you agree with the letter in the blog, and your comments will be duly noted.

Here’s what we wrote, and the address to which you can send your comments.

Jen Turnbow, Project Manager

KLJ

P.O. Box 1157

Bismarck, ND 58502-1157

August 17, 2018

Dear Ms. Turnbow:

Please accept these comments on the Draft EIS for the Little Missouri River Crossing in Billings County, North Dakota. We are writing to recommend Alternative L, the no-build option.

If built, this bridge would be the most colossal waste of taxpayer dollars in memory. If it is built with federal or state matching funds, approved by the North Dakota Department of Transportation, it will be a huge embarrassment for both the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, because it is truly a “bridge to nowhere.”

North Dakota has substantial infrastructure needs, as witnessed by several state legislators recently, and the proposed $11.2 million, and likely as much as $20 million, could be much better spent correcting existing problems rather than building a new bridge unlikely to be used by many except possibly the oil industry.

In spite of all being said by the county and KLJ, it appears the only real beneficiary of this bridge would be the oil industry. Federal and state tax dollars should not be spent to accommodate a single industry, especially at the expense of real and substantial damage to the historic, recreational and scenic properties of the state’s only designated State Scenic River.

If the bridge is built with Billings County taxpayer dollars, as the Commission has indicated it might do if federal or state dollars are not available, it should be subject to a referendum by Billings County voters before it is approved.

Almost no one wants this bridge. It has simply become a cause celebre for Billings County Commission Chairman Jim Arthaud, who has already spent several million dollars in Billings County tax dollars pursuing it, and, despite the fact it is not in his preferred location, has gone too far down the road for him to consider abandoning it without losing face. It is simply now a monument to his persistence, a monument on which he would like his name inscribed.

Almost no one will use this bridge, according to testimony at the public hearings, unless KLJ, the project’s engineers, are misleading us with this statement:

“Traffic volume increase of 3.5 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways. Not expected to generate new traffic; however the redistribution of local trips attracted to the new bridge is anticipated to increase the typical 2.5 per cent traffic growth rates by 1 per cent for roads associated with the alternative and adjacent roadways.”

If that statement is true, there is no need for the bridge. If that statement is misleading (which is not only possible, but likely), and the volume of heavy truck traffic increases dramatically, it will destroy the sanctity and peacefulness of the state’s only designated State Scenic River, likely in violation of Chapter 61-29 of the North Dakota Century Code, the Little Missouri State Scenic River Act, enacted by the North Dakota Legislature “to preserve the Little Missouri River as nearly as possible in its present state . . . (and) maintain the scenic, historic, and recreational qualities of the Little Missouri River and its tributary streams.”

The North Dakota DOT, as a lead agency for this project, should not approve a project which would violate the law.

Today there are ZERO trucks driving through the river valley and across the Little Missouri State Scenic River between Medora and the Long-X Bridge. That is what the residents of the river valley, although there are few, want the case to be. According to testimony at the public hearings, there are fewer than ten families living alongside the river who could possibly benefit from this bridge. But they live in fear of the noise, danger, and massive dust clouds which could be generated by heavy truck traffic through the river valley and on their farm-to-market roads.

The County Commission has leaned heavily on the need for the bridge to accommodate emergency vehicles. That argument doesn’t wash. Almost all of the county’s emergency vehicles are located in Medora, less than a mile from the bridge across the Little Missouri River there, and can go either way—east or west—to respond to an emergency.

For all of these reasons and others, the county should quit wasting taxpayer dollars and select Alternative L, the no-build alternative, and the North Dakota DOT and the Federal Highway Administration should reject the use of state and/or federal funds for this project.

Respectfully,

Lillian Crook

Jim Fuglie

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