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Study: $7B bill for ND road upkeep over 20 years

Associated Press Published: September 20, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's county and township roads, which have been pounded by truck traffic amid a flourishing state economy, will cost $7 billion to maintain over the next two decades, a new study estimates.

The survey, done by the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University, says $834 million is needed during the next two years alone. About two-thirds of that should be used in western North Dakota's booming oil-producing region, the study says.

It was presented Thursday to the North Dakota Legislature's Budget Section, a committee that includes legislative leaders and lawmakers who will be writing the state's next two-year budget when the Legislature begins its next session in January.

It shows that legislators will have plenty of spending demands on the state's oil-driven budget surplus, which is expected to reach $1.6 billion by June.

In 2010, the institute did a similar survey of county and township road construction and repair needs. It recommended spending $654 million on road upkeep during the following two years, including $356 million for roads in North Dakota's oil region. Lawmakers responded by boosting spending on the state's road network.

Denver Tolliver, the transportation institute's director, attributed the 28 percent rise in recommended support for roads in the last two years to skyrocketing construction costs and an 80 percent increase in the number of oil wells that state regulators expect will be drilled in western North Dakota.

North Dakota had about 7,300 producing oil wells in July, according to the state Department of Mineral Resources. The agency has upped the number of wells it expects to be drilled in the next two decades from 21,000 to about 46,000, Tolliver said.

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