New Four Bears Bridge is open for traffic

New bridge Plans called for the new Four Bears Bridge near New Town to be open for business this morning. The project, which has taken more than two years to complete, provides wider and safer lanes for motorists. The old structure was in place for more than 50 years. The Williston District Office of the North Dakota Department of Transportation headed up the project. Thomas A. Kvamme

It's out with the old and in with the new.

Well, that was the plan.

Earlier in the week it was announced the new Four Bears Bridge was to open for traffic on Thursday.

However, due to some last minute incidental items that needed to be taken care of, that didn't happen.

A state transportation official told us they needed the extra time to avoid interfering with traffic once the bridge was open.

Thus we had one last trip over the old bridge.

That led to the long-awaited opening being scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. this morning.

Should you have plans for a trip to the Four Bears Casino you will now find a much safer and wider approach with the opening of the $55 million dollar structure.

The Williston District Office of the North Dakota Department of Transportation has been the eyes overseeing this project, which has been in the works for more than two years.

Plans call for an official dedication of the bridge on Oct. 3.

A couple days prior to that dedication a number of special activities are being planned in New Town.


Officials from the Williston office are no doubt glad this day has come and especially engineer Greg Semenko, who can finally relax.

Semenko, and his trusty Dodge pickup, have been regulars on the road to New Town over the duration of the project.

As an engineer with the state highway department, Semenko will now concentrate on his duties as the materials coordinator.

The Williston native had assumed those duties along the way, which means his responsibility is to make sure materials used on roads meets the specifications.


Throughout the construction of the Four Bears Bridge, Semenko maintained the oversight of the project for the state.

While working with both consultants and contractors, Semenko also worked very close with the engineering firm of Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson from the Dickinson office.

With this project set for completion, Semenko is already lending his expertise as a consultant for state officials about to bid the Memorial Bridge which spans between Bismarck and Mandan.

Earlier this week he was in Bismarck working on that project.


You will be able to enjoy a view of the old Four Bears Bridge from the new structure for a very short while, as we have learned demolition of the old bridge is to begin immediately.

Once traffic has been rerouted to the new surface the demo work will begin.

Plans call for the demolition process to be completed by December.


That word from Walt Peterson, who serves as the district engineer for this area.

Peterson oversees the Williston office that consists of some 70 employees, which includes 34 equipment operators.

From the group of 34, a total of 22 work in the outlying areas.

Peterson has been with the district for 27 years and has served in his leadership role for the past 20 years.


He notes that along with Semenko spending time on the Four Bears Bridge, his assistant district engineer Joe Wilt was also involved with the project oversight and project administration.

That means he dealt with claims issues and design changes that took place.

Wilt logged a lot of miles along Hwy. 1804 as well, over the past couple years.


The Williston office has been very involved in major projects this summer, as along with the bridge, they have had a crew busy with the four-lane project on Hwy. 2.

We understand that after the four lanes are in place in 2008, there will be ongoing work through 2009 to work on the old surfaces.

As of Tuesday, the first segment of the four-lane from Ray to Tioga is expected to be open for traffic.

The stretch of road from Williston to Ray will be graded next year and plans call for it to be paved in 2007.

Then in 2007 grading will take place from Palermo and east.


In the fall of 2008, if all goes according to plan, the final stretch will be paved.

That will then complete the theme of "Across the State in 2008."

This link will then offer four-lane traffic across the northern tier.

When the whole plan comes together you can look for a 70-mile per hour zone, however, early on it will be limited to 65.

While these projects go on, Peterson tells us they are constantly planning for down the road.

At the same time Peterson acknowledges this is the busiest his department has been in some time.

District 1 entrails from the Montana border heading east to Berthold and from the Canadian border south to Grassy Butte, while providing coverage to the New Town area.

Peterson added that during this busy period they have had some help from the construction pool out of Bismarck for the grading jobs.

It's great to know some local folks have been instrumental in providing and upgrading our state highway system.


Plan now to attend the annual Williston Community Library Foundation event "Tables of Contents."

This fun event is set for 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the library.

A number of creative and beautiful table settings will be available for your viewing.

Refreshments will be served for this event that requires a $5 admission at the door.

Make note of that date and we'll tell you more down the road.


A tip of the hat is in order for the Wal-Mart corporation for providing $1 million dollars to the Salvation Army for use in relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

Locally the Williston Wal-Mart store is joining the effort with a container set up to provide additional funding from customers.

This is one way you can reach out and help those in need.


At the same time, the American Red Cross has designated First National Bank and Trust Co. as the initial collection point for monetary donations to aid in the relief of victims from Hurricane Katrina.

If you're interested in making a donation you can do so at any of the branches in Williston, Ray, Crosby and Lignite.

This gives you another option to chip in.


From the lost and found bag we would like to call attention to a couple of items that were left behind on the motorcoach on the return trip of the recent Day Trek to Medora.

Should anyone be missing an item or two you can call Medrein at 774-4179 to identify.


We received a note from Dan Carscallen and he tells us it won't be long before he assumes duty as the weapons officer aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in Japan.

You might recall we did a column on the career of the former Coyote who entered the U.S. Navy as an enlisted man and today he holds the rank of Commander.

That my friends is fantastic.

He was home recently for a 30-year class reunion.

It's great to know we have men of his caliber watching out for us.

He also notes he enjoys keeping up on news from back home by reading the Herald online on a regular basis.


With the recent surge in the price of gas you can bet a lot of folks will be staying close to home for the extended Labor Day weekend.

That gives you a chance to check out some of the activities taking place at Fort Union and the Confluence.

On Saturday you might consider a short drive to Alexander to enjoy the Old Settler's Day festivities.

For others, this just might be a good time to catch up on a number of projects before the football season kicks off.

Whatever you have in mind, enjoy!

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