North Dakota faces a great need for transportation infrastructure investment. With the growth in the oil patch and across the state over the past several years, great stress has been placed on the state's transportation infrastructure and it's critical that we work together to make sure North Dakotans have safe and reliable roads and bridges.
Funding for rural highways is one of the most important transportation issues facing the state of North Dakota. The needs are immense and they outpace dedicated dollars. As part of her Strong & Safe Communities Initiative, Senator Heitkamp has brought together community leaders to discuss the state's transportation infrastructure needs and the importance of building, repairing, and expanding roads and bridges across North Dakota to both improve safety and keep up with increased traffic.
In addition, Senator Heitkamp co-chairs the Ports to Plains Caucus in the U.S. Senate, a platform to advocate for needed federal investment to North Dakota and long-term, comprehensive solutions to make the state's roads and bridges safe and reliable. The Ports to Plains Caucus has a shared recognition of the need for enhancements to the north-south corridor of the federal highway system. Specfiic to North Dakota, the Ports to Plins Caucus calls for greater investments in U.S.-85.
Investments to rural infrastructure are not only important to the rural communities of North Dakota, they are important to the entire nation, including residents of major metropolitan areas. Rural transportation networks in states like North Dakota’s serve to link major population centers, enable agricultural products grown in North Dakota to reach destination markets, assist in energy production which largely occurs in rural areas, and facilitate military readiness. That is why Senator Heitkamp is working to highlight the importance of rural transportation policies to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation and other important federal transportation policy makers in Washington.
Senator Heitkamp helped pass a long-term highway bill that supports repairs and improvements to rails, roads, and bridges in North Dakota and across the country for five years. This bipartisan, long-term bill supports North Dakota’s transportation infrastructure by authorizing steady increases in federal funding to make sure the state can plan for expanding communities, repair deficient bridges, and upgrade and expand roads.
In the wake of the derailment of a crude oil train near Casselton in 2013 and following the derailment in Heimdal in 2015, as well as the drastic increase in train cars on North Dakota’s rails as a result of the oil boom, Senator Heitkamp has made rail safety a top priority. Largely due to the energy boom in North Dakota and the heavy reliance on rail as a mode of transportation, the number of railcars carrying crude oil grew by more than 4,000 percent between 2008 and 2013, according to the Association of American Railroads. Senator Heitkamp brought U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to North Dakota, including to Casselton, to meet with local, state, and federal officials to review work on a comprehensive plan for improving rail safety. To improve safety for North Dakota’s communities, Senator Heitkamp also introduced her RESPONSE Act to make sure first responders have the training and resources they need to handle potential hazardous incidents, such as derailments of trains carrying crude oil.
Reliable and consistent rail service is a critical piece of North Dakota’s transportation network. Senator Heitkamp works closely with rail operators, both large and small, and government agencies to make sure customers have access to affordable and safe rail options. She has also been a strong advocate for continued Amtrak passenger rail service throughout North Dakota.
When the railroads failed to meet the demands of North Dakota’s agricultural shippers in the winter of 2014, Senator Heitkamp acted quickly to put pressure on federal agencies and the railroads to restore service. After her work with the Surface Transportation Board and the state’s elevators, the railroads dedicated more resources to North Dakota – installing more track and hiring more staff to meet the increased demand.
North Dakota air travel has dramatically increased in recent years, particularly in the western part of the state, and a robust network of general aviation airports connect rural communities to air transportation and support the state’s economy. Senator Heitkamp brought U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta to North Dakota to see firsthand the challenges facing the western part of the state. During the visit, FAA Administrator Huerta traveled to Williston and learned more about the drastic rise in passenger enplanements, placing major stress on airport infrastructure. Since Senator Heitkamp stressed the need for increased, predictable, and adequate federal funding for all of North Dakota’s regional airports, millions of dollars of investment have been made by the FAA. Additionally, Senator Heitkamp is fighting to continue Essential Air Service routes important to Devils Lake and Jamestown.
With the passage of a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the FAA, Senator Heitkamp successfully fought to include provisions to help protect Grand Forks’ burgeoning unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry. Grand Forks is a growing global hub for UAS innovation, which is why Senator Heitkamp fought to expand the ability of UAS technologies to help respond to natural disasters, provide emergency response, and protect critical infrastructure like pipelines. She also pushed to include provisions that guarantee a five-year congressional authorization for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site and boost universities’ – including the University of North Dakota – involvement in establishing UAS safety and certification standards.
Senator Heitkamp has been a vocal advocate for the innovative Enhanced Use Lease between the U.S. Air Force and Grand Forks County that paved the way for the Grand Sky Business & Aviation Park, the first UAS business park of its kind anywhere in the nation, as well as for the Joint Use Agreement that will help tenants of the business park leverage the unique partnership with the Air Force.
Senator Heitkamp's Recent Work on Transportation
|1/31/18||Heitkamp Introduces Bill to Improve Rail Safety, Require Two-Person Crews on Freight Trains|
|1/24/18||Heitkamp Meets with Head of White House Economic Council to Discuss North Dakota’s Infrastructure Priorities|
|11/17/17||Heitkamp Announces Federal Funding for Road Infrastructure Improvements|
|9/28/17||As Senate Passes Bill Reauthorizing FAA, Heitkamp Calls for Long-Term Transportation and Infrastructure Solutions for ND|