August 19

Late night gravel grinding

As you might expect, road construction season in North Dakota is fairly intense — short but intense, and necessarily so.  Once the frost goes out and roadwork can begin, road crews go nearly non-stop to get as much done as they can before freeze up in the fall.  Cold fall weather shuts down asphalt batch plants about mid-October.  So, the gravel pits supplying the aggregate for asphalt stay busy — even at night.

This plant is about 20 miles north of where I live.  Belly dump semi trucks roll constantly past Wilton hauling mixed asphalt to road work.  I followed the trucks one evening to this site where the horizon was lit up with the overnight work.  A fast shutter speed froze action, and a wide aperture allowed enough light to enter my lens to make the image.

Though North Dakota’s road construction season is short, its roads are some of the best in the nation. Numerous studies, surveys and reports show that the state’s highway system is well-maintained for the population.   It doesn’t happen automatically.  Local road engineers keep monitoring road conditions and then prioritize projects.  A limited amount of tax money is available for projects, so some get put on hold.  But when they’re approved, they go quickly.  One of the basic tenants of the United States is commerce and facilitating commerce between the states. The nation’s road infrastructure is part of that fundamental effort of commerce between the states.

So the next time you eat a slice of bread, know this: it is because the farmers here raised the grain that was hauled to the mill and bakery on the roads that were maintained by men and women who work non-stop through the night.

July 6

Construction season

North Dakota has some of the finest highways I’ve ever ridden.  Here’s why — it’s constantly construction season.  The state has enough people who are spread out across a large region that a network of good roads is essential to safely move people and goods.  The North Dakota Department of Transportation is second to none for its work at keeping up the road system.  Under-staffed and under-funded the hard-core work ethic of North Dakotans carries the state’s DOT when in other states the road system would be bankrupts.  It’s not the legislature, the executive branch or management that makes North Dakota’s roads what they are — it’s the men and women who give all they have well beyond what they are paid for, to keep up the road system

North Dakota is the first state to complete the Interstate system border to border, some 600 miles of four-lane roads intersecting at Fargo give travelers a safe route across the state.  But because North Dakota’s Interstate system is as old as it gets and because it is subjected to extreme freeze-thaw cycles expanding and contracting the pavement and bridges, the system is in constant state of replacement.

This project is at the Missouri River crossing, Grant Marsh Bridge on I-94 between Bismarck and Mandan. Farther west in Mandan, more work squeezes traffic down to one lane in both directions.  Barrels like this are common sites, and I’m sure travelers groan when they see the yellow markers ahead, but they can be sure that when they come back next year, this section will be smooth sailing.

I’m fascinated by the work that is done, each nut turned on a guard rail to each bucket of dirt moved is just one element of what combined is a huge task of giving travelers a road they won’t even notice because it seems all they really notice is when the road is rough, or under construction.

April 16

Road Construction Season

It’s that time of year again — road construction season.

North Dakota is the first state in the nation to complete its Interestate from border to border. That means some of the pavement in the Interstate System is the oldest in the nation…and it’s life span is over.  It must be replaced.

Then, there are places as in this photo in Fargo where the city has grown, transportation demands have changed and grown and new lanes, interchanges and bridges must be added to accommodate the growing population.

Going down I-94 coming up on the junction of I-94 and I-29, this is the sight to welcome travelers…and by next year, it will be the same sight, only in a different location.
Road construction in North Dakota never ends.