Last year, the NDSGA joined with other agriculture groups, contractors, cities, counties and townships, engineering firms, the Greater ND Chamber (GNDC), ND Motor Carriers and others to form the ND Transportation Coalition. The goal was to work together for bettering our state’s transportation infrastructure by advocating for sustainable/dependable funding. We found some success in our first session of the Legislature by having transportation funded at an all-time high although there is much left to improve.
Yesterday in Bismarck, the GNDC put together our first Forum and we heard first from Ed Mortimer via Zoom. He is the VP of Transportation Infrastructure for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and had to stay in D.C. because of the upheavals surrounding the $1.2 Trillion infrastructure bill up for a vote today. He lauded our two ND Senators for voting for it but is worried that it will not pass the House (Rep. Armstrong has taken a no vote stance to this point).
All of us live in counties, and ND Association of Counties executive Terry Traynor then spoke of some ND stats to help us understand what still needs to be done. For instance, of ND’s 4,312 bridges over 20 feet in length, 10% are structurally deficient and over 25% have identified needed repairs. Ninety percent of ND land is used for agricultural purposes and our Ag industry employs about 25% of our workforce either directly or indirectly. He pointed out (as did Agriculture Commissioner Goehring later in the program) that without strong roads out of the fields, we cannot transport our crops nor use our inputs. Fun fact: ND state highways – 7,407 miles, county roads =19,611 miles. Township roads = 56,008 miles of roads. The Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (ND’s premier research arm and heavily used by our DOT) also explained how we rank 47th in bridge condition and other needs.
Having emphasized township road funding last session, your NDSGA is especially appreciative of those legislators who helped out. Continuing his activity from last session for funding township roads, Senator Mark Weber from Casselton stood up yesterday and implored those present to keep up their efforts. Exec. Director Blake Crosby of the League of Cities announced that of the 357 incorporated cities in ND, 56% were under 200 in population. He fears that without state aid many of those will return to gravel streets.
Tourism and Conoco Phillips joined Commissioner Goehring in speaking of the necessity of good roads and bridges and we were finally spoken to by NDDOT Director Bill Panos who detailed the need for greater funding to keep us safe. He has lots of ideas how technology will help us get there.