How bad is traffic in the North Dakota Badlands? Is oil field traffic a problem?

Bison get the right-of-way in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

In the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, traffic congestion is unusual compared to congestion in the city.

It’s better than it was. At its peak, about five years ago, it was more intense compared to what we remember of travel in Western North Dakota. 

Highway 22 comes down the valley to cross the Little Missouri River.

Highway 22 crosses the Little Missouri River north of Killdeer, south of Mandaree. Though it’s in the heart of oil field country, the traffic is lighter than expected even in July when this photo was shot.

Compared to regions such as Bismarck, Fargo, or Minneapolis it was very similar back in the oil rush days.  Most of it was semi-trucks.  They could cause slowdowns as they crawled slowly up steep grades.  The North Dakota Department of Transportation (ND DOT) has built passing lanes to ease the uphill problem.    These days, traffic has thinned out greatly and is not bad at all.

Construction zones slow traffic in the North Dakota Badlands

The ND DOT has done an amazing job of trying to stay ahead of the curve with roundabouts, bypasses, and four lane highways.  So, there will be plenty of road construction areas, but each project is one step toward improvement.

A pilot car leads traffic through construction on Highway 200

Occasionally, a pilot car will direct traffic through construction zones on Highway 200 near Dunn Center and Halliday.

Right now, some of the worst parts are Highway 200 between Halliday and Grassy Butte and Highway 1806 between New Town and Williston.  Be prepared for slow traffic and some days, long waits for pilot cars.  

Bypasses around cities such as Williston, Watford City, Killdeer, Alexander and New Town help channel traffic away from inner-city streets.

What places do you know of that other drivers should be aware of?

(“Find Out Friday” is the weekly column in which we answer the most common questions about the Beautiful Badlands of North Dakota.  To get an alert of each new entry, subscribe to the blog in the upper-right hand corner of this page or below.)


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