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Michigan residents say U.S. 2 project unsafe

Residents of the Michigan, N.D., area are protesting a proposed construction project on U.S. Highway 2 that could eliminate two of four entrances into the community.

Elected officials in the area say people there are worried about congestion and safety if the project goes through.

About 250 area residents have signed a petition opposing the Michigan Bypass project, which is scheduled to be done in 2015.

No final decision has been made, according to the state Department of Transportation. But an official there said the project is meant to increase safety by reducing the potential conflict between vehicles crossing Highway 2 and those on the highway.

Michigan, a town of 280, is about 60 miles west of Grand Forks.

Emergency access

The bypass project proposes to eliminate the farthest east entrance into the city, as well as the intersection with state Highway 35 North, which is Broadway — the most direct access to Michigan’s Fire Department and Ambulance Service, according to Mayor Lauri Rysavy.

“They had stated that they were doing this for safety concerns,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of accidents in our town. By eliminating two entrances, you’d have a lot of congestion. We’re not sure DOT is really listening, so we decided to do a petition.”

The proposal also would eliminate one of the two crossings over BNSF Railway tracks in town, which Rysavy said would create additional safety concerns.

State legislators representing the area have weighed in.

“Even though Michigan is a relatively small community, the traffic entering and leaving is quite extensive,” state Rep. Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown, wrote to NDDOT. “ The school system, a busy implement dealer, emergency medical services, fire department, Tesoro gas station, travelers from State Highway 35 and County Road 35 crossing Highway 2, and agricultural producers all contribute to the need to retain all access points. If all this traffic is consolidated into only two access points, I fear safety will be compromised.”

Rep. Bill Devlin, R-Finley, echoed Vigesaa’s remarks.

“(Area residents) make very valid arguments about the concerns they have regarding their needs for the ambulance and fire equipment,” he wrote NDDOT. “I also agree fully with their arguments on how this change will negatively affect agriculture in that area. As you know agriculture is the life-blood of small towns and hampering the movement of equipment in any manner will create serious problems and safety issues.”

Rethinking traffic

A preliminary draft of the project has been delivered to NDDOT’s central office, according to Les Noehre, the department’s district engineer in Grand Forks.

“It’s a reconstruction project, going all the way to the dirt, rebuilding the roadway from the bottom up,” he said. “When we’re doing reconstruction, it makes sense and it’s prudent to evaluate everything involved with that roadway, including wetlands, drainage and access points.”

 “We’re looking at safety,” he said. “Every access point creates conflict points, where conflicts occur between vehicles entering the highway and vehicles on the highway.”

The proposed project has been submitted for design work, he said, and a final decision could come within a week to a month.

While no additional public meetings are planned in Michigan, he said that is not out of the question.

Kevin Bonham

Kevin Bonham covers regional news, mostly from northeast North Dakota, for the Grand Forks Herald. A North Dakota native who grew up in Mandan and Dickinson, he has been a reporter or an editor with the Herald and Forum Communications for more than 30 years. Find his articles at: He welcomes story ideas via email,, or by phone, (701) 780-1110.  

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