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Transportation and logistics students evaluate bridge options in oil country

Published: 19 February 2013

Traffic and road issues related to oil development in North Dakota became part of the curriculum for students in an advanced transportation and logistics class last semester.

For a class project, students in Transportation Planning and Environmental Planning were asked to help assess possible locations for a new bridge across the Little Missouri River between Medora and Teddy Roosevelt National Park. Engineers from KLJ Engineering challenged students to investigate possible bridge locations by assessing the possible environmental impacts of each. Key components of the assessment were to be fuel consumption and likely emissions, as well as dust created.

KLJ came to NDSU and the students because they have access to a western North Dakota traffic model developed by the NDSU’s Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute. “The UGPTI’s model is the best information out there right now with regard to traffic projects,” KLJ engineer and NDSU alumnus Troy Ripplinger told the class. The traffic model had been developed by institute staff to assess road infrastructure investment needs for the state, counties and townships when existing models could not account for the rapid growth and development there.

Currently no bridge exists across the Little Missouri River from the I-94 bridge near Medora to the Long X Bridge on Highway 85 at the entrance to the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which is about 70 miles. Billings County attempted to find a location for a bridge in the 1980s and 1990s, but abandoned the project in the face of opposition. Oil development and the resulting traffic and congestion have prompted renewed calls for a bridge. Local officials say the bridge is necessary to alleviate congestion on area highways and to improve accessibility for emergency services. Others argue the bridge and resulting traffic will have a negative effect on surrounding properties and could impact the National Park.

In early October, Ripplinger and KLJ planners Kayla Torgerson and Jennifer Turnbo presented background information to the class. They described potential bridge locations and outlined state and federal environmental assessment requirements. By early December the student teams had run analysis on various potential bridge locations, prepared a formal presentation and addressed the class and a representative from KLJ with their findings.

Students Vu Dang, Ciaran Kelly and Yognshin Park presented “Fuel Consumption Based on 20-Year Vehicle Miles Traveled Forecast: A Study of the Little Missouri River, North Dakota.” Students Brett Korporaal, Chippo Nsereko and Stephen Seifert presented “Fugitive Dust Emissions on the Little Missouri River Bridge Alternatives.”

“This project provided students with real-world experience on issues facing our region,” said course instructor EunSu Lee. “At the same time we were able to provide some specialized expertise that was of value to the engineering firm.”  

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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013