ITD gearing up for eclipse chasers

Preparations at ITD Headquarters and in the districts are well underway for the 2017 total solar eclipse.

Officials throughout the department are planning for the event, coordinating with state and local governments and other community leaders on preparations.

ITD wants to make viewing of the solar eclipse in Idaho a safe and enjoyable experience for residents and visitors alike by keeping highways open and traffic flowing.

In case you haven’t heard, the eclipse is a big deal. The moon will fully obscure the sun for more than two minutes, completely shadowing a narrow band of the lower 48 for the first time since 1979.

Southern Idaho lies in the center of that band, which is referred to as the “Path of Totality.” The moon’s umbra shadow will pass over the countryside through this band.

ITD is developing an incident-response plan, identifying locations that may become bottlenecks, and developing traffic-control plans. Officials tentatively anticipate they may suspend highway construction Friday through Wednesday.

Make your plans – and support ITD in making its preparations. The agency aims to provide the level of service expected of the best transportation department in the country.

To catch the excitement of this major celestial event, see the projected path of the shadow as it passes over Idaho https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4515.

The state’s typically sunny August weather means there is a good chance there will be few, if any, clouds in the sky when the eclipse occurs.

The point isn’t lost on eclipse chasers, who have booked up motels, campgrounds and even homes in the region to view the “totality.”

They also like the fact that Idaho is situated at a high altitude, closer to the sky than many parts of the country. Estimates are for tens and even hundreds of thousands of people to descend on Idaho — some projections put the migration at more than one million.

The event begins in the late morning of August. 21 in Weiser and ends in the early afternoon in Driggs. Other towns in the center of the path are Mackay, Mud Lake, Rigby, Rexburg and Victor. Area residents should buckle up.

If you unavailable, uninterested or have other plans August 21 and intend to catch the next total solar eclipse in Idaho, prepare to wait for 152 years.

Major construction planned in Coeur d’Alene area this summer

Major construction will impact north Idaho traffic in and around the Coeur d’Alene area this summer. Interstate 90, U.S. 95, and other area roads will be impacted. The Idaho Transportation Department is partnering with the city to reach out to the driving public with critical information on these upcoming impacts.

There may be five or six projects within a five-mile radius of town. The projects will repair and replace deficient pavements and upgrade routes and signs.

You can see a map of the projects here.

The pavement being replaced is deficient, and some of the work can be directly linked to this year’s rough winter. These projects will result in more efficient traffic flow, better visibility and improved safety.

Drivers are encouraged to slow down, pay attention and be aware. There will be lane closures, lane shifts, reduced speeds, and delays. Motorists may need to plan alternate routes if possible.  One of the best things a driver can do is check the traveler information system at 511.idaho.gov frequently.

I-84 resurfacing between Nampa and Caldwell begins

I-84 Repaving Map

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department will begin initial construction activities next week on a summer project to resurface deteriorated pavement on Interstate 84 between Nampa and Caldwell.

ITD will share details about construction activities and sequencing at a community open house Thursday, May 25 at the Hampton Inn at 5770 Franklin Road in Nampa. Community members are invited to come at their convenience from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

ITD is using weekend and nighttime traffic control to minimize traffic impacts during the weekday commute.

During four weekends this summer, ITD will shift all I-84 traffic to one side of the interstate (eastbound or westbound) while crews work on the other side. On these four weekends, one lane of traffic will be open in both directions between Nampa and Caldwell from 7 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday. All lanes of I-84 will be open during the weekday.

Check out the project website here.

Final weekend dates will be scheduled based on factors such as traffic counts, weather predictions, equipment and materials availability, and the project schedule.

Community members may request email notification of the weekend dates by texting INTERSTATE84 to 22828. ITD will announce exact dates as soon as they are scheduled.

Other traffic impacts for the project will include occasional nighttime lane restrictions, shoulder closures and speed-limit reductions. The project includes resurfacing I-84, the Northside Boulevard interchange ramps and two ramps at the Franklin Boulevard Interchange. Guardrails will be improved throughout the project area.

Idaho Materials Construction is the contractor for this $9.5 million project.

“Look Twice for Motorcycles” during May’s Motorcycle Awareness Month

BOISE – Warming temperatures have people across the state looking for ways to get out and enjoy the spring weather. For many Idahoans, that enjoyment comes by riding a motorcycle on one of our many scenic highways.

“Idaho is a great place for motorcycle riding,” said Lane Triplett from the Idaho Coalition for Motorcycle Safety. “Our roads have beautiful scenic views that require varying degrees of technical riding ability, which is why riders from around the globe come to our state.”

Idaho’s beautiful highways have been a dangerous place for some motorcyclists — 140 people were killed in motorcycle crashes between 2011 and 2016, with 42 percent of those crashes involving other vehicles.

“Drivers and riders alike need to share the responsibility of keeping our roads safe,” said Triplett. “We realize it’s our job to ride safely and sanely but we want you to take that extra second and think about motorcyclists while we’re out on the highway.”

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and its partners in motorcycle safety remind drivers to “Look Twice for Motorcycles” to help prevent motorcycle rider deaths and injuries during May’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

“As drivers, we need to do our part and look out for motorcyclists because they are smaller and hard to see,” said Josephine Middleton, of ITD’s Office of Highway Safety.

“As motorcyclists, we need to wear protective gear and always be prepared for the worst, because in most crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles, the drivers of the other vehicle did not see the motorcycle until it was too late,” Middleton explained.

She offered tips to drivers on how to prevent a fatal crash with a motorcycle:

• Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has the same rights as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
• Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
• If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
• Check mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
• Always allow more following distance – three to four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
• Never drive or ride distracted or impaired.

Completion of the Idaho STAR Motorcycle Rider Training Program may mean up to an 89-percent reduction in the risk of a fatal crash, according to analysis of crash data.

“Can you reduce your chance of crashing on a motorcycle? Yes, you can, by taking motorcycle-rider training,” said Sunshine Beer, director of the Idaho STAR Program.

Motorcyclists can increase their safety by following these steps:

• Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and other protective gear.
• Obey all traffic laws and be properly licensed.
• Use hand and turn signals at every lane change or turn.
• Wear brightly colored clothes and reflective tape to increase visibility.
• Ride in the part of the lane where you will be the most visible to drivers.
• Never ride distracted or impaired.

To learn more about the Idaho STAR motorcycle-rider training program, go to http://idahostar.org/

 

Train derailment closes lanes on U.S. 95

Train Derailed near U.S. 95

Coeur d’Alene – Multiple train cars derailed ten miles north of Athol, ID near the roadway Monday, spilling corn and posing a danger to drivers on U.S. 95. ITD immediately closed southbound lanes to travel, placing flaggers on the road to direct two-way traffic on the northbound lanes. Watch aerial video of the derailment below.

Motorists can expect both southbound lanes will be closed for the next two weeks while crews remove 25 derailed cars. Crews on scene have observed an increase in animals approaching the wreck to eat the spilled corn, so drivers should use caution in the area.

ITD engineers have been unable to determine the extent of the damage the derailment caused. Primary concern focuses on an approach to U.S. 95 where the cars derailed.

ITD will continue to work with BNSF to ensure safe travel near the derailment.

I-15 work begins soon between Lava Beds and Bonneville County Line

I-15 Fort Hall-Burns Rd.
I-15 Lava Beds
Map of I-15 Lava Beds to Bonneville County project

Work will begin work Monday (May 1), weather permitting, to resurface eight miles of Interstate 15 from the Lava Beds to the Bonneville County Line. I-15 will be reduced to one lane in both directions in the project area until later this summer. This project is among 10 maintenance projects scheduled this year along 190 miles of I-15 in eastern Idaho.

Construction began between the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and Blackfoot earlier this month, and additional work is scheduled to begin in Pocatello later in May.

During construction, motorists are urged to plan extra time when traveling through the construction zone, pay attention to signage and changing traffic patterns, and slow down.

Bridge replacements and pavement rehabilitation to begin on U.S. 95 near Parma in mid-April

Parma Bridge U.S. 95

Reconstruction of two bridges on U.S. 95 in Parma will begin in mid-April.

Work will occur at the junction of U.S. 95 and U.S. 20/26 and include the reconstruction of the Union Pacific Railroad overpass, Sand Hollow Creek Bridge and nearby pavement rehabilitation.

*The project is scheduled to be complete this winter.

*A posted detour will be in place during the project. A separate truck detour will also be posted. The speed limited will be reduced to 45 mph in the work zone. The speed limit will be reduced to 45 mph on U.S. 20/26 when shoulder or median work is occurring. Flaggers will assist motorists through the work zone during different phases of the project.

*Most work will occur Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays.

Motorists are encouraged to check 511.idaho.gov for construction updates and detour information. For a full list of construction projects scheduled to begin across southwest Idaho, please visit our website at itd.idaho.gov/d3 and click on the construction tab. Some updates will also appear on Twitter and Facebook.

With nearly 45 projects scheduled across the region this year, please plan ahead, slow down, and give yourself enough time when traveling through each work zone.

Tips to Stay Safe on Flooded Roads

Water on road

Spring has sprung across the state, but the effects of one of the snowiest winters in recent memory are still being felt. Melting snow and spring rains have filled streams, creeks, and rivers across the state, increasing the likelihood of localized flooding.

“We urge drives to expect the unexpected,” said Mel Coulter, emergency program supervisor at ITD. “Local flooding is occurring statewide in areas where snow is rapidly melting and pooling on the highway.”

Water-covered roads can create hazardous conditions for drivers – it only takes about a foot of moving water on the road to cause a car to float away. Just a few inches of standing water can cause cars to hydroplane or stall. Water also can hide dangers just below the surface.

“Highways can be compromised or become unsafe because of a saturated road base. Water flowing across the highway has the potential for floating or sweeping vehicles from the road. Often those conditions are not readily visible,” said Coulter.

The first rule of driving through a flooded area is, don’t do it. The only sure way to avoid getting stranded is to find an alternate route.

If you can’t avoid a flooded area and have to drive through it, please take the following precautions:

  • When approaching a depth of standing water on a road, always slow down before entering it. Even a very shallow depth of water can cause hydroplaning if entered at speed. The tires effectively lose contact with the road, resulting in a loss of steering control.
  • If there are other vehicles around, watch what happens to them as they drive through the water. Doing so will help you judge its depth and how it affects the vehicle as well as warn of any hidden hazards beneath the surface.
  • Proceed into the water very slowly and maintain a steady pace so as not to lose momentum. If you go too quickly, you risk losing steering control. If you go too slowly, you run the risk of getting stuck.
  • Do not drive into water where power lines have fallen, as electric current can be conducted by water.
  • Be particularly cautious entering a flooded area at night as it is much more difficult to identify potential hazards.
  • Be considerate of others. Driving through water at speeds above a slow crawl can create a splash that inhibits the visibility of other drivers and soaks pedestrians or people trying to direct traffic.
  • Watch for debris or other items that may float into your path.
  • Once you are through the flooded area, be aware that your brakes will be wet and will not function normally until they dry. Light brake applications will help them dry out and return to normal more quickly.

 

If you become stranded, please consider the following:

  • If your engine stalls and doesn’t quickly restart, do not continue to try as doing so may cause more serious damage.
  • It is important to keep the situation from getting worse, so turn on your hazard warning lights to make sure other drivers can see you.
  • Use your cell phone to call for help.
  • If you can safely make it to higher ground on foot, leave the vehicle and do so. Be cautious of other traffic around you. Use caution when walking – moving water can make your footing unstable and maintaining your balance is more difficult.
  • If it seems unsafe to leave the vehicle, stay with it. If the water level becomes too high inside, you may want to climb onto the roof to await assistance.
  • Whatever the circumstance, keep calm and think through the best course of action and its consequences.
  • The best advice of all, however, is simple. Do not drive in flooded road conditions if at all possible.

 

Active slides undercutting Idaho State Highway 5 near St. Maries

Road breakup on ID 5

Shifting ground from a very wet spring has caused sections of State Highway 5 to heave and collapse.

ITD has completely shut down ID 5 between Parkside Rd. and Conklin Park Rd. A mud slide beneath the road has caused it to crack and sink. In some areas, the road is gone entirely. At this point in time, engineers fear the section of road may be a total loss.

Crews will start to do exploratory drilling Friday and into the weekend. This will help discover the extent of the slide and what repairs may be needed once shifting stops.

ITD first noticed significant damage last Monday. Initially, small 3-inch wide cracks formed on the road surface. By Tuesday those cracks were 8 inches wide and more than six feet deep. Since then the road has steadily deteriorated and continues to shift.

Motorists are advised to detour around the dangerous area. ID 3 and ID 6 are the best options. Local traffic has been using the state park road, but that is now restricted due to unstable ground. Local authorities are asking those roads be used only for local emergency traffic.

Springtime in Idaho offers different set of road maintenance challenges

Spring Road Conditions

As Idaho prepares to emerge from a historic winter that brought the most snow many areas had seen in decades, a new set of challenges face our road maintenance crews.

Hillsides saturated by snow and rain can release rockslides given the slightest provocation. Moisture coming in on the top of existing snowpack bring the threat of springtime avalanches. Suddenly higher temperatures lead to extensive melting, flood watches statewide and water-over-the-roadway concerns.

And drivers emerge from winter hibernation to return to area highways. It is as critical as ever for motorists to have access to current travel information, available at 511.idaho.gov.

Meanwhile, ITD crews will be constantly monitoring our state roads, looking for break-up, potholes, hazards, and general deterioration. The department is committed to removing or repairing any problem areas as soon as possible.