Who decides to close the interstates in ND?

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:41 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - When winter weather makes travel unsafe, one or both of North Dakota’s Interstate Highway Systems can be shut down, and that decision isn’t made with the flip of a coin.

When snow falls and the wind blows, it can make for hazardous driving conditions on North Dakota’s highways and interstates. When road conditions become too dangerous for drivers, the North Dakota Highway Patrol works together with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to make the decision to close. From the Highway Patrol officers to the plow drivers and the maintenance supervisors, the planning and decision-making to stop traffic is a team effort.

“It’s constantly a joint decision and when we make that decision for a closure, whether it’s one specific area, it’s done so with a lot of communication,” said Lieutenant Derek Arndt, regional commander.

Each storm is different and unique in how it begins and progresses, so the NDHP and NDDOT use several different criteria to monitor not only the road conditions but visibility as well.

“But the coordinated ones with DOT are typically ice related, heavy snowfall, visibility or a combination thereof,” said Lt. Arndt

Lt. Arndt says they use all information available to them during bad weather, but when it’s time to make the call, the best information they have are their patrol officers in the elements.

“I’m talking to our troopers on the road, they’re talking to the plows, and you get real, firsthand knowledge of what’s going on out there,” said Lt. Arndt.

This winter season has already delivered record-breaking snowfall and cold temperatures to create perilous travel, with vehicles sliding into the ditch or semis jackknifed on the roads. Lt. Arndt said the North Dakota Highway Patrol has cameras so the public can see road conditions in real time but even those can be deceptive. He says to check the road maps and take travel advisories seriously.

Lt. Arndt said he and others are waiting to see what the next round of winter weather brings, and they’re already out and monitoring the road conditions.