The North Dakota Oil Boom’s Impact on Livability in Western North Dakota


North Dakota State University

Principal Investigator

Del Peterson

PI Contact Information

Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute
North Dakota State University
NDSU Dept. 2880
P.O. Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Funding Source(s) (Amounts provided by each agency or organization)

USDOT UTC – $70,568

NDSU – $71,058

Total Project Cost


Agency ID or Contract Number


Start and End Dates

March 1, 2014 – February 28, 2015

Brief Description of Research Project

The western half of North Dakota has experienced tremendous growth in recent years due to increased oil exploration and drilling. Along with this has come transportation and housing issues that affect everyone involved. The Highway 2 corridor in northwest North Dakota has seen a dramatic increase in traffic volumes while local airports have seen a substantial increase in passenger boardings leading to greater demand for additional flights. Also, increases in housing and apartment rental costs have forced some to relocate to other communities. These issues highlight a number of livability related topics such as affordable housing, transportation mode choice, and the sustainability of existing communities among others.

A study will be conducted in northwest North Dakota to analyze these topics with a focus on travel mode choice and housing affordability. Special consideration will be given to seniors and disadvantaged populations who rely largely on fixed incomes.

Analysis will include the impact of increased travel and housing costs on individuals who have lived in the area for long periods of time and are now forced to make possible relocation decisions. The effect on public transit will also be studied to gain a better understanding as to how the oil boom has impacted local transit services. Analysis will also explore changes to various modes of transportation in northwestern North Dakota while focusing on intermodal solutions for individual travel.

Describe Implementation of Research Outcomes (or why not implemented)

As nearly as soon as this report was completed, the oil boom went bust. Decreasing oil prices cut the production of oil, and construction and development nearly halted. However, the research outcomes are still valid, and will likely be implemented as activity picks up in the future.

Impacts/Benefits of Implementation (actual, not anticipated)

Rapid growth can sometimes provide the funding necessary to increase livability, such as providing funding to increase public transportation services. However, rapid growth, such as with the oil boom, can also mean increasing wages, which often cannot be met by public transportation agencies. The benefits of livability remain in high growth areas, but can often be difficult to achieve in boom times.”

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