I am trying to get caught up with all the e-mail after several days on the road and away from the blog and the computer much of that time.
I have to correct an error in my notes, and it's a big one. A big "thank you" to the reader who sent me the correction.
That four-lane highway between Watford City and Williston will NOT be a divided four-lane highway, but an undivided four-lane highway. That is incredible. Incredible as absolutely the wrong thing to do. See my first impressions of this stretch of road. An undivided highway is absolutely irresponsible. I think one could argue that a four-lane undivided highway might be more dangerous than leaving things the way they are. A four-lane highway will encourage faster speeds; the current two-lane with some widening, some three-lane stretches, some turning lanes creates a chokepoint simply because so much of it is two-lane, but it has the natural effect to slow down traffic at least to some extent.
The plans for the US Highway 85 project in western North Dakota can be found here. I'm not sure if the 20' median is the entire length of the highway, but if it is "highway asphalt" that makes up the median, I would assume it becomes, for all "practical" reasons, a dangerous, optional, illegal passing zone. Disclaimer: I have not reviewed the details; I don't know for sure what the completed highway will look like. I may be wrong; I may be misunderstanding the reader or the official plans, but if this is not a conventional "divided" highway, this is not good news.
By the way, while driving that stretch of road the other day, there was already a lot of construction of the four-lane highway, and it appeared that it was not going to be divided, but I thought I was just missing something. Apparently not. Barriers down the center of the road will be needed -- they do this all over the south and the east where there is high traffic, high speed, and an undivided four-lane highway. The barriers, beside protecting against head-on crashes, have a tendency to slow traffic down just because there is a "perception" the road is narrower than it might really be, AND drivers know they have no "escape route" to the left when driving in the passing lane.