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Western Liaison Program is Running Strong for Western ND Counties and Tribes

Posted: Jan 20, 2022

After just over a year with the Western Liaison Program, Matt Johnson and Ed Ryen are familiar faces in county and tribal road departments and county and city meeting rooms across western North Dakota.

In August of 2020, the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute (UGPTI) in conjunction with the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) implemented the Western North Dakota Transportation Liaison program. This program is designed to assist Williams, McKenzie, Mountrail and Dunn Counties as well as the MHA Nation with transportation planning and related issues.

Johnson, located in Williston, serves as Western ND Transportation Liaison. He works closely with county and tribal staff on a wide variety of transportation topics and issues. Additionally, he coordinates with NDDOT staff regarding issues facing the county and tribal officials. He regularly attends county commission meetings to serve as a resource and to relay questions and concerns to the NDDOT.

Ryen, located in Bismarck, serves as Western ND Transportation Liaison Assistant, and primarily focuses on enhancing the Geographic Roadway Information Tool (GRIT) network, Wise Roads - NDAWN weather information, technical research and other outreach as needed.

In addition to daily outreach to country and tribal officials and road departments, Johnson and Ryen have taken on key leadership roles in numerous road related initiatives in the region.

Some of Johnson's recent activities included:

  • Helping to plan and moderate the Western Dakota Energy Roundtable, an event planned by the Western Dakota Energy Association to help county leaders in oil producing counties glean recent technical information and share best practices.
  • Arranged a tour of the Long-X bridge construction site near the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park for local road managers to learn about bridge construction techniques and to allow them to see the largest wildlife crossing structure in the state.
  • Developed a county commissioner education packet in cooperation with the North Dakota Association of Counties (NDACO) to help newly-elected commissioners refine their knowledge about how to manage county roadway resources. Topics included road and bridge management, planning and zoning, transit, road funding, economic development and other topics.
  • Promoted Mountrail County's high-friction surface treatment and efforts to enhance traction on a steep county road on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. He has facilitated project tours by other road departments interested in the innovative treatment and will be presenting on their success at numerous upcoming Conferences.

Some of Ryen's activities included:

  • Helped the MHA nation with entering road segment information into the Geographic Roadway Information Tool (GRIT), an asset management program developed by UGPTI to help local road managers better manage and visualize their road network.
  • Assisting in planning for installation of additional subsurface temperature and moisture probes to provide key road condition information as a part of the Wise Roads weather station project. The last of the planned probes were installed in November.
  • Worked with NDDOT to integrate road and weather data from the Wise Roads system into NDDOT's Road Weather Information system.

"During a challenging year, Matt and Ed have really fulfilled the vision for this Western North Dakota Liaison Program," noted Dale Heglund, director of UGPTI's Local Technical Assistance Program that provides outreach to road agencies across the state.

"They bring the resources of the NDDOT to road departments and commission meeting rooms to let local officials know just how the NDDOT can assist them and what form that assistance can take," Heglund explained. "On the flip side, they are able to bring concerns, issues and opportunities from counties, tribes and townships directly to the NDDOT. That closer relationship benefits everybody and the end result is a more seamless transportation system across the region."

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050