Drilling to slow traffic on state highways in eastern Idaho starting Monday (Aug. 7)

RIGBY – Work zones will be necessary for routine roadbed sampling of several state highways in eastern Idaho on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting Monday (Aug. 7).

Beginning in the Idaho Falls area and then moving to other parts of the region, a contractor from Boise will bore holes in the roadway as close as every mile apart to determine the depth and quality of asphalt. The project is scheduled for completion Aug. 16.

Technicians will take samples of the pavement and then patch the holes left behind. Each stop takes approximately 10 minutes.

Travel will be reduced to one lane in each direction on four-lane highways and to one lane on two-lane routes, with signs or flaggers directing traffic through the work zones.

Motorists should expect brief delays.

The speed limit may be reduced along some stretches.

The project is part of certain road studies occasionally conducted by ITD to analyze pavement.

Drivers should watch for maintenance workers and equipment, and obey all traffic signs.

Nearly 100 attend Targhee Pass workshop July 27 in Island Park

RIGBY – Nearly 100 people attended the July 27 alternative-development workshop in Island Park for the Targhee Pass Environmental Assessment (EA) being conducted by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).

Targhee Pass is a four-mile portion of the U.S. 20 corridor. In addition to serving Yellowstone National Park, Targhee Pass serves many popular recreational and tourist destinations. The highway functions as the regions Main Street, providing primary access to year-round residences, vacation homes, hunting and fishing lodges, state park and national forest areas, and a variety of community commercial establishments.

At the July 27 meeting, the public reviewed information on the EA process, timeline, and the EA updated purpose and need statements. Several citizens reviewed materials and screening criteria, and then drew or commented on their ideas for potential alternatives on blank maps of the study area.

“We were very pleased with attendance from the community and the level of engagement of citizens,” said ITD Project Manager Eric Verner. “We appreciate the passion people have for Island Park and the Targhee Pass area. Feedback from the community is important to our study team, providing valuable insight into area issues, challenges and opportunities.”

Those unable to attend Thursday’s meeting can access displays, information and resources from the event at http://islandparkus20.com/helpful-resources/public-meeting-opportunities-materials/. Please send comments/suggestions to the study team by Aug. 10. Input will help ITD officials develop alternatives and then schedule another public meeting later this summer (before Labor Day).

There will be an opportunity to comment on proposed alternatives at the next public meeting, prior to these alternatives being carried forward for analysis in the EA.

For questions, or to submit feedback, please contact the team:
Targhee Pass Study Team
(c/o The Langdon Group)
677 South Woodruff Avenue
Idaho Falls, ID 83401
(208) 220-5937
targheepass@langdongroupinc.com

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is the lead agency on this study, responsible to sign the final study document. The study is being completed in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. For more information on the EA, please contact Andrea Gumm at 208-220-5937.

Idaho one of only two western states to win multiple regional transportation awards

BOISE – Two Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) efforts — a massive clean up of a landslide in north-central Idaho, and the final piece of an interchange construction plan in eastern Idaho that significantly cut serious crashes — won regional awards June 28 in Juneau, Alaska.

Regional winners in the America’s Transportation Awards were announced during the annual conference of the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO). Idaho was one of only two western states to receive multiple awards; Colorado was the other. WASHTO is the western regional arm of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

“The America’s Transportation Awards give state DOTs recognition for providing the essential connections that keep people, goods and our economy moving forward,” said David Bernhardt, AASHTO president.

The two ITD awards are listed below:

Elk City Slide Cleanup – winner in “Operational Excellence, Small Project”

The 2016 Elk City landslide unleashed 47 million lbs. of mud, rock and debris on Idaho State Highway 14, cut off access to a remote town and threatened grocery and gas deliveries, health-care visits, emergency services, and the livelihood of those who rely on the highway for transport.

ITD employees from all over the state swarmed to the site to respond. Many employees took leave of their typical job assignments to assist in the efforts. The cleanup took about six months, and cost close to $3.5 million.

The original slide dumped material across a 500-foot-wide stretch of highway. Two months later, a second slide brought down more material and pushed what was already loose debris even closer to the highway. Combined, the slides spilled 235,000 cubic yards of debris on the road and left a boulder weighing about 2.4 million lbs. on the hillside that ITD reduced with two dynamite charges.

“The entire team of worked safely and efficiently, with the people of Elk City in mind every step of the way,” said ITD District 2 Engineering Manager Doral Hoff.

Thornton Interchange – winner in “Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Small Project”
The opening of the new Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg marked the culmination of more than a decade of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built in a 34-mile stretch of U.S. 20 between Idaho Falls and Sugar City to improve access management and traffic flow for greater highway safety and mobility.

Despite traffic volumes doubling, these improvements drastically decreased serious-injury crashes and fatalities. In addition, several money-saving innovations and technological advances shaved at least $450,000 off the final price tag for the Thornton project.

“Providing the contractor with a 3-D model for the Thornton Interchange and requiring them to use automated grade control during construction shortened the required construction time and reduced the impact to traffic through the busiest part of the summer,” said ITD District 6 Engineering Manager Wade Allen.

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.

Traffic sensors will aid traffic flow on I-15 during upcoming construction

Blutooth-enabled snesor

To aid traffic flow for tens of thousands of drivers during upcoming construction on Interstate 15 in eastern Idaho, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is turning to new technology. Bluetooth-based roadway sensors in the Interstate 15 median will provide real-time travel information during construction starting later this spring.

I-15 Project Map
Map showing construction projects along I-15 for 2017

Between this spring and next year, ITD will resurface deteriorated pavement on I-15 and make numerous bridge repairs. Construction will include multiple work zones along a 140-mile stretch of I-15 between Utah and Montana.

More than 50 sensors will be connected to portable message signs (similar to those seen in this picture, but attached to poles rather than sign posts) located at the beginning of construction zones to communicate traffic impacts ahead. Sensors pick up the Bluetooth signal on phones or in vehicles as they pass any two points in the work zone, and the times between them are calculated in order to find average travel speeds.

ITD will also make the real-time travel data available to the public through a mobile app being developed, and is working to place the information on the project website.

The sensors will help ITD monitor traffic conditions during summer/fall construction, and during the winter months.

“This technology will give us reliable traffic data we can use to maximize traffic flow and make our work zones safer,” said Dan Harelson, ITD District 5 Engineering Manager. “ITD is asking motorists to plan extra time to travel through construction. Pay attention to signage and changing traffic patterns this summer.”

Similar Bluetooth sensors have been used successfully at various places in Idaho and Utah. The sensors will be removed once construction is complete on I-15. Additional sensors will be installed on U.S. 20 and U.S. 91 during the same timeframe.

To request email updates during I-15 construction, email comments@itd.idaho.gov or text INTERSTATE15 to 22828. The I-15 App will be available later this year on Google Play and the App Store.