Transportation Board Approves Northgate Engineering Funding

Northgate Interchange Plan

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Board agreed to fund the remainder of the cost to finish to design the Northgate (Siphon Road) Interchange in southeast Idaho. The board unanimously passed a resolution to fund the engineering and design costs of approximately $1.5 million for the project.

The project would connect parts of north Pocatello and Chubbuck to Interstate 15 near Siphon Road. ITD is currently working with the cities of Chubbuck and Pocatello, Bannock County, the Pocatello Development Authority and Millennial Development to fund construction of this interchange.

By authorizing the completion of the engineering and design, the project would be ready for construction when a resolution for funding the project along with the right of way acquisition are complete.

“This interchange presents a unique opportunity to work closely with the private sector and other local agencies,” said Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead in a previous news release. “We understand why local residents are excited about this project. We think it will increase mobility and bring greater economic opportunity for the community.”

Last June, the Board passed a resolution authorizing the construction of an $8.4 million interchange at the location. After an engineering study, it was determined it would cost a total of $12.5 million to build an interchange sufficient to meet existing and future needs in the area. ITD is working with local agencies to determine the best way to fund the project increase.

ITD seeking dynamic communicator for eastern Idaho

The Idaho Transportation Department is looking for a Public Information Specialist to work in eastern Idaho and join the department’s Office of Communication in telling the story of one of the best transportation departments in the country.

If you are interested in working for an award-winning, dynamic, professional state agency, with a constructive culture focused on outstanding customer service and continuous employee improvement, this may be for you!

Top job candidates will have an opportunity to help make Idaho’s roads safer, increase mobility and promote economic opportunity, using skills in media relations, writing and collaboration.

Candidates must have strong writing skills, experience interacting with news media, an understanding of how to use social media effectively and the ability to collaborate with others to develop successful outreach campaigns and facilitate public hearings, meetings and events. The preferred candidate should also have a basic knowledge of photography, publication design, marketing, government relations experience and an understanding of how to write for print and broadcast mediums.

For more information or to apply, here’s a link to the job posting. The deadline for applications is Jan. 27.

ITD’s southeast Idaho office partners to put US-89 on Road Diet, solve speeding issue 

When city and state partner on a project, great things usually result. Such was the case recently in the small town of Paris, Idaho, where US-89 is a state highway and also serves as the small southeastern Idaho town’s main street.

Because Highway 89 is on the State Highway System, ITD has responsibility for the highway. City leaders brought a local safety concern to ITD regarding speeders, and the groups collaborated to solve the issue.

Mayor Brent Lewis contacted the ITD District 5 Traffic section Sept. 25 about converting the four-lane section to a three-lane section, with parking and bike lanes, to help get a handle on vehicles speeding through town. Lewis described people jockeying for position in the four-lane section and this behavior was leading to frequent speeding. Because ITD had just chip sealed and fog coated US-89, it was an opportune time.

ITD quickly researched the roadway width, contacted the contractor on the chip sealing and authorized changes in striping quantities (from 8,000 Lineal Feet to about 30,000) to make it happen. District 5 Traffic Engineer Corey Krantz (pictured left) decided to employ a “Road Diet” to solve the issue. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) defines the Road Diet concept as the practice of removing travel lanes from a roadway and using the space for other uses and travel modes.

The most common Road Diet is to convert an undivided four-lane roadway to a three-lane undivided roadway made up of two through lanes and a center two-way, left-turn lane. The reduction of lanes allows the roadway section to be reallocated for other uses such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, transit uses, or parking.

According to FHWA, before-and-after studies suggest a traffic-calming effect that results in a 4-5 mph reduction in the 85th percentile free-flow speed, a 25% reduction in travel speed, and a 30% reduction in the percentage of vehicles traveling more than 5 mph over the speed limit. In addition, lane-elimination projects generally reduce the severity of crashes.

The data shows that these three-lane roadways are effective for traffic volumes up to 20,000 vehicles per day. The traffic volume for the town of Paris is right around 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles per day on a busy summer weekend.

Striping was moved up in the schedule to accommodate the change.

Brad Stevens, a TTO in Montpelier Maintenance, assisted Krantz in laying out the new striping pattern, which took most of one morning to mark out.

“Brad and I got the various lanes widths laid out within the curb and gutter sections,” explained Krantz. “It resulted in fewer conflict points, which increased safety.”

The road was re-striped to accommodate 11-foot travel lanes, 6-foot bike lanes, and 8.5-foot parking slots, with 150-foot transitions at the ends. The Road Diet provides other roadway features that are more conducive to the general public, like bike lanes and possible changes in parking.

Mayor Lewis is happy with the results. “It looks great, and I’ve heard many positive comments from citizens. Most of the year-round residents really like it. Our City Council liked it. Mayors from other towns have said they view it as a safety improvement. I have talked to all law enforcement officers and asked for their comments, and what they observe with regard to the change.”

“It has definitely helped from a safety standpoint,” said Idaho State Police officer Chris Clausing (pictured below), a resident of Paris. Clausing, a father of four who has patrolled Paris for the past two years, has seen egregious speeding first-hand.

“I’ve stopped people for going 60 mph and 70 mph through town, and ISP deputies have caught someone doing 80 mph before. The speed limit is 35 mph transitioning to 25 mph, so that is more than excessive in my opinion.”

“Speeds have definitely dropped, and the biggest benefit is safety for the kids. There’s more of a buffer now between them and the highway lanes. Before, if the kids were playing ball and a ball made it out of the front yard, they were right in the middle of the road, because the highway and sidewalk were right next to each other.”

These Road Diets have been used with great success in other Idaho cities such as Victor, Idaho Falls, Rigby, and Malad. Besides Paris, District 5 has been promoting this for the city of Preston for a couple of years, and after many discussions and meetings with the city and the public, the Preston City Council voted unanimously on October 23 to approve a Road Diet through Preston on US-91.

The changes will occur when the highway is seal coated next summer.

 

 

Public-private partnership creates economic opportunities for east Idaho

One of the largest public-private partnerships in Idaho is moving forward after government and business leaders broke ground on the Northgate Project in east Idaho today (Thursday, Sept. 14).

This project represents an unprecedented partnership between six public and private entities that will increase mobility and economic opportunity along the Interstate 15 corridor.

“This project presents a fantastic opportunity for not only Pocatello and Chubbuck, but also all of East Idaho to grow and thrive into the future,” said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.

The partnership consists of the cities of Chubbuck and Pocatello, Bannock County, the Pocatello Development Authority, the Idaho Transportation Department and Millennial Development.

In June, those partners signed an agreement to build a new interchange on I-15 and new local roads to connect to the interstate.

The new infrastructure would open the north end of Pocatello and east Chubbuck to new development by way of a master-planned community called Northgate. Once fully built, the project is expected to bring new a 1-million square foot IT park, retail businesses and 10,000 new homes.

“This project kicks off a visionary transformation in the Portneuf Valley that will echo for generations,” said project developer Buck Swaney.

Crews will begin some site work this fall, with the majority of the construction expected to begin in spring 2018.

ITD gives final go-ahead for Northgate Interchange

Northgate Interchange Plan

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has given the final approval to begin developing the Northgate (Siphon Road) Interchange in Bannock County. The department provided the final signature on the agreement between ITD and several public and private partners during Thursday’s Idaho Transportation Board meeting in Coeur d’Alene.

The partnership consists of Millennial Development, city of Chubbuck, city of Pocatello, Bannock County, Pocatello Development Authority and ITD.

The project will connect parts of north Pocatello and Chubbuck to Interstate 15 near Siphon Road.

ITD will now begin the selection process to design the interchange, with the goal of breaking ground in the spring of 2018 and completing the project in the fall. 

“We think it will increase mobility and bring greater economic opportunity for the community,” said Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead. “This interchange presents a unique opportunity to create a public-private partnership that can serve as a model for the future.”

Tin Cup Beaver Dam Restoration project benefits wildlife and ITD

POCATELLO – If Ruffles have ridges, what do riffles have? Beavers, it turns out.

When a few beaver dams on Tin Cup Creek in southeast Idaho started backing up water last fall at a culvert on Idaho Highway 34 and threatening to undermine the road, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) was faced with the complication of adding underwater bridge inspections for that remote site.

Instead, they added riffles — really good riffles. ITD constructed the riffles (rocky or shallow parts of a rough-water stream or river) to entice the beavers to build. That’s exactly what they did.

ITD crews first removed three beaver dams downstream of the culvert to lower the water level at the crossing. They also removed one dam just upstream of the structure, which lowered the stream channel and de-watered adjacent wetlands in a stretch of the creek.

In collaboration with the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, ITD crews repaired the stream by building two in-stream rock riffles over two days in mid-July. The result was better than what Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game (IDFG) wildlife fisheries biologist Corey Lyman expected.

The photo above shows Mark Porter (ITD District 5 Maintenance Operations) operating a Track Machine while building a riffle. The photo below, taken Aug. 8, shows a beaver dam already built on the new riffles.

The work not only stabilized the channel and protected the culvert, but also permanently raised the creek bottom, which had eroded down enough to disconnect the water from the creek banks and willow-filled floodplain. Streambed work also improved habitat for fish and for all wildlife living in the area.

“Without water reaching the river banks, the streamside wetlands were drying up and dying, and we were losing the habitat,” explained D5 Sr. Environmental Planner Alissa Salmore. “We essentially re-watered the area.”

The project also allowed members of ITD’s Pocatello, Soda Springs/Wayan, and Montpelier Maintenance sheds to gain experience in stream restoration work. This added to their skill set and reinforced environmental awareness.

Plus, it has already been successful.

“The fish were moving into the dams and claiming territory as we were cleaning up and leaving the project,” said Mark Porter of District 5 Maintenance Operations.

Porter also said that beavers have already begun building over the riffles, which was exactly the intent.

Idaho Transportation Board moves forward on Northgate Interchange (Siphon Road) project

Northgate Interchange Plan

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Board unanimously approved a resolution Thursday that allows the Idaho Transportation Department to move forward with an agreement to develop a public private partnership to build the Northgate Interchange (Siphon Road) in Bannock County.

The overall project will connect parts of north Pocatello and Chubbuck to Interstate 15 near Siphon Road. Under the agreement, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) would administer the construction of the interchange portion of project and the other partners would construct connecting road infrastructure.

The partnership consists of Millennial Development, city of Chubbuck, city of Pocatello, Bannock County, Pocatello Development Authority and ITD.

“This interchange presents a unique opportunity to work closely with the private sector and other local agencies,” said Board Chairman Jerry Whitehead. “We understand why local residents are excited about this project. We think it will increase mobility and bring greater economic opportunity for the community.”

As part of the agreement, ITD and Millennial Development will share costs of building the $8.4 million interchange. The other partners will share the costs of building connecting infrastructure.

The agreement calls for the Millennial Development to pay $3.4 million up front and then ITD would contribute $5 million for the construction of the interchange.

Public comment sought on I-15/Siphon Road Interchange project

I-15 Sign

POCATELLO – The public is invited to submit input via an online comment portal on the proposed Interstate 15/Siphon Road Interchange project. The project is currently being developed, with construction starting as early as 2018.

The interchange will be built approximately three-quarters of a mile north of the Chubbuck Road overpass (milepost 73.5) in Bannock County.

The public comment portal can be found at: http://arcg.is/1quH81.

The portal includes a comment form and map featuring the preliminary design of the proposed interchange and its local connector roads. Additionally, it allows users to view a listing of all submitted comments.

The I-15/Siphon Road Interchange project includes the construction of a bridge over I-15 with interstate highway entrance/exit ramps. Any new local roads connecting the existing local-road network to the new interchange will be built by local entities prior to the completion of the new interchange.

The need for the interchange arises from the following issues:

– Limited existing access to I-15 north of the I-15/I-86 junction causes out-of-direction travel that contributes to congestion on U.S. 91 (Yellowstone Avenue)

– Limited existing access to I-15 north of the I-15/I-86 junction is not expected to accommodate the area’s projected future growth northeast of Pocatello and Chubbuck in Bannock County

– Crash rates on U.S. 91 and I-15 in the Pocatello/Chubbuck area exceed statewide averages

Since the previous public outreach for the I-15/Siphon Road Interchange project was concluded more than five years ago, the transportation department will provide an update on the project and invite the public to submit comments on the proposed interchange layout.

Comments are being accepted through July 31. They can be e-mailed to adam.rush@itd.idaho.gov, or to greydon.wright@itd.idaho.gov. Comments also can be mailed to: Idaho Transportation Department, Attn: Adam Rush, 3311 W. State Street, Boise, ID  83703.

Those with questions about the project can contact Adam Rush at (208) 334-8119, or Greydon Wright at (208) 239-3317.

For questions or comments regarding the construction of the new local connector roads outside interstate right-of-way, please contact the city of Chubbuck, city of Pocatello, or Bannock County.

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.

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.