March 2, 2012

Use of federal assistance complicates bypass picture

Use of federal assistance complicates bypass picture
By Jerry W. Kram

The New Town City Council’s efforts to route oil field traffic away from Main Street faces some complications that could delay the project.
City Engineer Alan Estovold reported that the North Dakota Department of Transportation is looking at the possibility of using federal highway funding to help pay for a truck route that would divert traffic away from Main Street. Estvold told the council he had urged the NDDOT to use state funding exclusively for the project in order to get the project completed this year.
“Federal aid doesn’t come without strings,” Estvold said. “They want more analysis done and an analysis of alternatives as well.”
Estvold said that without the federal funding, the archeological and environmental studies the city are conducting or have completed would have been adequate. Federal requirements for the studies are far more stringent, he said. He said small adjustments could have been made to the bypass route to avoid wetlands and other sensitive areas and to take the concerns of neighboring landowners into account. These adjustments are more difficult under federal guidelines.
Estvold said the decision could also complicate how the city works with the neighboring land owner on the project. Under federal guidelines the city cannot enter into negotiations on compensation for the landowners until the project gets all its permits. Federal rules also prevent the city from having a public hearing on the project until the permitting process is complete. The Council had tentatively decided to hold a hearing in March until the funding issue came up.

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