The main north-south artery in North Dakota’s oil patch is the most dangerous stretch of road in the state, newly released statistics show.
U.S. Highway 85 had the most fatal accidents, injury accidents and property damage accidents, according to a preliminary 2014 report from the state Department of Transportation.
The highway had 11 fatal accidents, 188 injury accidents and 526 property damage accidents. By comparison, Interstate 94 in southern North Dakota saw 4 fatal crashes, 141 injury crashes and 444 property damage crashes, according to the report.
Portions of U.S. 85 also have some of the highest traffic volumes in the state.
“That speaks to the amount of equipment for oil and gas and construction that’s moving up and down that corridor. This isn’t grain trucks,” said Cal Klewin, director of an organization pushing for the highway to be made into a four-lane expressway.
The state is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on upgrades to the two-lane highway – including making it four lanes between Williston and Watford City.
“It is better than it was, but we still have issues along there,” state Rep. Keith Kempenich, R-Rhame, told The Bismarck Tribune.
The state also is making other changes such as reducing the speed limit near a dangerous intersection south of Williston, but that highway engineering can’t overcome people who drive after drinking or don’t wear seatbelts, transportation department spokeswoman Jamie Olson said.
Other high-traffic areas are Interstate 94 east of Valley City and I-29 from Grand Forks through Fargo.
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