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Holmberg to discuss highway funding in New Mexico

Ray Holmberg

State Sen. Ray Holmberg will travel to New Mexico next week to discuss transportation infrastructure funding with a state legislative committee.

Holmberg, the appropriations committee chairman who represents District 17 in Grand Forks as a Republican, said legislators in Santa Fe are interested in learning about how North Dakota has faced transportation demands, particularly in oil-producing regions.

He will give a presentation to the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy Committee on Wednesday.

Holmberg said he was invited because he co-authored a bill last session that allowed the North Dakota Department of Transportation to send out bids for highway construction and maintenance projects in early spring, rather than after the end of the legislative session in May.

According to a NDDOT white paper provided by Holmberg, the early appropriation of the $620 million allowed the department to take advantage of two full construction seasons and save millions in inflation costs.

In a normal budget cycle, state agencies receive funds on July and are available for two years. It usually takes about 20 days to a month to finalize a construction contract, so work likely wouldn’t start until after Aug. 1, according to NDDOT.

“This would only give the contractor two to 2.5 months to finish the project,” the white paper stated. “This simply is not enough time to construct major highway projects, so realistically the department would not have been able to start any work until the following year.”

It’s been especially important to get road projects underway in western North Dakota, where an energy boom resulted in a 53-percent increase in traffic on state highways between 2010 and 2012, according to NDDOT. New Mexico is experiencing its own oil boom, with production reaching 99.1 million barrels in 2013, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

NDDOT was able to bid 43 projects before July 1 and work on other projects already underway, finance right of way costs and consultant contracts, the white paper said.

The white paper added the bill has been talked about in “national meetings and showcased as a success story for North Dakota.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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