State Entities Meet in Dickinson for County Roads Conference – The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON — The Stark County Highways Department hosted the 2022 North Dakota County Engineers Association (NDACE) County Roads Conference this week at the Astoria Hotel.

The conference began Wednesday morning and ended Friday afternoon. Al Heiser, superintendent of the Stark County Highways Department, was one of the main organizers of the event.

Heiser said he was initially concerned about how a spike in coronavirus cases across the state might impact the conference when they sent out invites in November. Despite this, he estimated that there were over 200 registered attendees and 39 vendors showcasing their products and equipment.

This is the first time Stark County has hosted the conference since 2003. Congressman Kelly Armstrong, R-ND, delivered an energetic speech, Heiser said. Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, who is retiring at the end of his term, received the Friends of the NDACE award.

“Rich was very instrumental in getting funds to the counties to fix the roads,” he said. “Rich has been there for the counties.”

For decades, bridge maintenance was often overlooked and underfunded, but that’s starting to change, he said.

“I think they’re finally realizing that you know what, we need to focus on our bridges in this country…I really think we’re heading in the right direction,” Heiser said, pointing out that much of the change may have been brought about by a tragedy. .

In August 2007, the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. This left 13 dead and 145 injured.

Heiser said one of the Stark County bridge projects they are working on is south of Richardton at the South Antelope Interchange, and explained that some repairs are not eligible for state funding and of the federal government.

“We also have a lot of bridges that are 20 feet or less, for which there is no state or federal funding. It’s county funding only,” he said.

Building and even maintaining new bridges can be a long and frustrating permit approval process involving the Army Corps of Engineers, North Dakota Game and Fish, and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other agencies. he explained.

“If someone was planning a bridge today, you’d probably be lucky if you could do it a year from now. But every circumstance is different,” Heiser said. “If this bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Bridges, it’s a whole other (ordeal). Then they have to go out and take pictures and do some research. But I don’t make the rules, we just have to follow them.

Genny Dienstamnn is the executive director of NDACE, which is an extension of the Association of Counties.

“We represent all 53 counties in the state,” she said.

A wide range of topics were covered during the three-day conference. They included roads and bridges, as well as funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Traditionally, the North Dakota Department of Transportation conducted inspections of bridges and determined their load capacities. Two years ago, changes to federal regulations made it difficult for NDDOT to complete this work in a timely manner, Dienstamnn said. These tasks were outsourced to private contractors.

“With this I also feel like we are getting much better bridge inspections, and what does that mean for citizens? It means we’re able to provide safer bridges and fix the infrastructure that needs it the most and maybe wasn’t necessarily on our radar before,” she said, describing her as bittersweet. “When you look at the best to worst bridges by state, we’re 41st on the list. So we have a lot of work to do not only at the county level, but also at the state level.

Dienstamnn believes that infrastructure is too often viewed in terms of federal, state and county jurisdiction.

“We really see it as one transportation system,” she said. “We try to make it as safe as possible for the citizens of our state and for the citizens who pass through it.”

The event was a success, she said.

“It’s great to be back out West…Al and his team have done a phenomenal job fostering community engagement, sponsorships and really bringing a local touch to the conference,” she said. declared.

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