ITD seeking communicator for south-central Idaho

The Idaho Transportation Department is looking for a Public Information Specialist to work in south-central 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 Tuesday (Nov. 28).

Top 2017 innovations feature safety, cost savings and more

The Idaho Transportation Department’s ongoing innovation initiative, now in its fourth year, has already shown some impressive results. The program has so far saved Idaho taxpayers $5.1 million in efficiencies that are applied directly back into maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges. Along the way, the innovations have improved customer service, enhanced mobility, and directly impacted safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

ITD’s emphasis on innovation features a statewide employee-driven effort with a premium on finding safer, easier and less expensive solutions. The 2017 Best of the Best competition spotlights innovations in each of seven categories central to the department’s main goals: safety, mobility, economic opportunity, customer service, employee development, time savings and cost savings.

“It is so exciting to celebrate every employee’s efforts to make things just a little bit safer or better in some way,” said ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “Recognizing the spirit of innovation in every employee is what Innovate ITD! is about.

Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:

• Received 1,120 ideas from employees
• Implemented 760 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of $5.1 million*
• Realized 170,000 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created 420 customer-service improvements.

* The savings in time and money are being used to maintain roads and bridges and provide better customer service.

Here are the seven category winners in ITD’s Best of the Best 2017 – Watch the Best of the Best video:

SAFETY
For the safety category, ITD’s south-central Idaho office began by improving the nighttime visibility of delineator posts. Safety can be dicey on Idaho’s many rural roads.

On tight turns, you might see a series of yellow signs with black chevrons warning drivers, or a row of standard markers or reflectors showing a hazard ahead. In some locations, that’s not always enough.

D4’s James Bennett created a low-cost option to assist drivers in recognizing the change in direction of travel. A series of these posts can be installed within a couple hours.

Watch curve delineation video

CUSTOMER SERVICE
In the Customer Service category, the winning idea uses 3D renderings to drive better public understanding.

ITD is using new technology to help the public and stakeholders better grasp complex bridge replacements, visualize what ITD is trying to accomplish, and understand how the new bridges will fit into the town’s aesthetics or existing environment.

By using 3D bridge renderings and animations, ITD is better able to communicate project complexities and alleviate frustrations. This has been very popular and proven extremely beneficial on several high-profile projects where the 3D renderings and animations were fundamental to understanding project goals and outcomes.

Having a 3D visual makes it come to life for people, and helps reduce controversy by clearing up misunderstandings.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
The winner is an idea to provide alternatives to load-posting bridges.

An innovation developed by ITD Bridge Asset Management provides local bridge owners with options when faced with deterioration, so a particular bridge can remain open and unrestricted to legal vehicle loads, rather than simply giving load-posting requirements.

The goal is to keep local bridges open and unrestricted to vehicle traffic, which supports ITD’s mission. It improves the lives of Idaho citizens by safely ensuring mobility is uninterrupted and business can transport goods and services in less time.

COST SAVINGS
Mechanic Brandon Thurber and colleagues in ITD’s D6 shop lamented that aluminum valves, floor plates, and mounting covers on truck frames were replaced twice a year because of salt corrosion. So, they began investigating ways to preserve shed trucks.

One day they discovered that spraying the components with varnish preserved the metal, reducing corrosion and replacement costs.

Total annual replacement cost for the rusted-out components was about $48,000 — $800 for each of the district’s 60 trucks. By using the varnish, that cost can be cut by $40,000 per year.

MOBILITY
In this category, the 2017 winner was magnetic.

A simple idea out of the south-central Idaho office could help prevent flat tires with a giant magnetic sweeper bar mounted to a patrol vehicle. Best of all, the innovation will help both the general driving public AND department employees.

D.J. Price of D4 got the idea when looking at the punctured casings of several blown tires about 100 yards away from a mess of nails on the road.

ITD trucks were a logical choice – they are already out on the road.

TIME SAVINGS
The 2017 winner is an innovation to streamline purchases.

Step into the typical ITD shed and you’ll find hundreds of tools, parts, and pieces of equipment. Staying on top of that list can be a logistical nightmare.

So, an ITD team worked on solutions to streamline the process. They created standardized digital forms with some auto-fill fields and drop-down menus to speed up the process. They also found it made sense to open up the approval process. Only orders more than $10,000 need to be approved by a supervisor.

With a new protocol in place and vending machines for supplies getting installed across the state, the solution is on track to save thousands of labor hours.

EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT
This year’s winner provides a career-development path for ITD maintenance workers.

Already seeing an influx of new Transportation Techs and anticipating even more in coming years, ITD’s eastern Idaho office developed a “TTO Boot Camp” to get new employees trained on the basic elements of the maintenance program and acclimated to a career at ITD. Having consistent training across each regional foreman area also gave these newcomers a kick start to their development and effectiveness. To ease the on-boarding process, the department also paired a mentor with the new employees.

ITD is providing a higher level of service to employees, and those skills can then be applied to service to the public on roadways.

Those are ITD’s 2017 Best of the Best winners, showcasing how innovative thinking can improve products and services and make the most of taxpayer funds.

District 6 celebrates US-20 improvements with $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) donated $10,000 to the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at a ceremony at the Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho October 10. The prize money came to ITD when the Thornton project won the America’s Transportation Awards public vote earlier this fall.

Pictured (L to R): Scott, Lina and Kim Robinson present the donation to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation representative Joe Wojciechowski. District Engineer Jason Minzghor (far right) served as event emcee.

Watch the video of the event.

Now 20, Lina Robinson (daughter of D6 Maintenance Foreman Scott Robinson) has suffered with Cystic Fibrosis since birth.

So far, there is no cure for the disease. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports a wide range of research that focuses on the hunt for a cure and improving the quality of life for patients. The disease afflicts roughly 70,000 people worldwide.

“With this donation, we are partnering with the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,” said ITD District 6 Engineer Jason Minzghor. “ITD is pleased to be able to contribute and, in this small way, be of assistance to Lina and others who deal with the genetic disease.”

“The disease is a steady challenge,” Lina said. “I have learned to accept the treatment requirements. A number of medical advances over the years have improved my quality of life. The biggest challenge is trying to fit the treatments into my busy schedule.”
Lina Robinson

The Thornton Interchange on U.S. 20 south of Rexburg opened Nov. 18, 2016, marking completion of all the work needed to make the corridor a safe, modern highway. District 6 has completed 20 years of work along the 34-mile stretch of highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City, closing 18 at-grade (level) intersections and constructing seven full interchanges.

Despite traffic volumes more than doubling while the new interchanges were being built, the safety improvements decreased serious-injury crashes by 75% and reduced fatalities to less than one per year. Improvements furthered ITD’s mission of safety, mobility and economic opportunity for the traveling public, saving lives and reducing property damage.

Innovation in design and the safety that resulted from construction of the new interchange has been widely recognized, with the project winning three prestigious awards:

1. President’s Transportation Award for Highway Traffic Safety – American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

2. “People’s Choice” Award – America’s Transportation Awards.

3. Best Use of Technology and Innovation – Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO).

Idaho Transportation Department refinances GARVEE to save $13.1 million for taxpayers

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will save approximately $13.1 million in interest costs on GARVEE highway bonds. ITD worked with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association to refinance $101 million of debt by reducing interest rates from 4.5% to 2.3% on those bonds.

This is the second refinancing of GARVEE bonds completed by ITD and IHFA as part of the continuing management of this program. The first, in 2015, resulted in $12.7 million in savings.

“Through GARVEE, we are investing wisely by spending the money now to solve the transportation problems of tomorrow. We are paying less than the anticipated cost of inflation for the same construction work in years to come,” said ITD Director Brian Ness. “The GARVEE program on the whole is another example of ITD being as efficient as possible by saving money, stretching resources, and reinvesting savings back into the maintenance of our roads and bridges.”

GARVEE bonds allow ITD to finance much-needed road and bridgework, with the promise to pay back the borrowed capital during the next 18 years.

“ITD continues to look for opportunities to take advantage of favorable market conditions and ensure that we are managing our finances wisely for the taxpayers of Idaho,” said department Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “We apply those savings back to maintenance and improvement of our roads and bridges.”

GARVEE bonds have paid for approximately $857 million in road and bridge work in the last 10 years, including 119 miles of new roadway, 41 new or rebuilt bridges, and 14 new or rebuilt interchanges.

The Idaho Legislature approved an additional $300 million in GARVEE bonding authority during their last session, and the Idaho Transportation Board has already started to direct some of that funding toward needed projects in the Treasure Valley and in northern Idaho.

McArthur also credited ITD Controller Dave Tolman for his diligence in managing the financing transaction and work with external partners. “The ITD team will continue to monitor the market and work with our partners to identify future opportunities,” she said.

ITD donates $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

RIGBY – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) donated $10,000 to the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Tuesday (Oct. 10). The gift is ITD’s prize money from winning the America’s Transportation “People’s Choice” Award for the Thornton Interchange project.

The opening of the Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg last November culminated 20 years of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built along a 34-mile stretch of the highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City. The project and the overall U.S. 20 safety improvements have reduced serious-injury crashes by 75% and cut fatalities to less than one per year in that stretch of highway.

Cystic Fibrosis hits close to home for the eastern Idaho office of ITD known as District 6. Foreman Scott Robinson’s daughter, Lina, has suffered with it since birth. The disease is a progressive, genetic malady that causes persistent lung infections and eventually limits one’s ability to breathe.

(Picture of Lina Robinson)

Lina, 20, braves three different breathing treatments every day – each of which takes an hour. She takes special enzymes with every meal to help with digestion, consumes an array of vitamins and other supplements, and eats high-calorie meals and snacks. She regularly visits doctors, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, x-ray lab technicians, and pharmacists. Prescriptions cost $15,000 per month.

“The disease is a steady challenge,” she said, “I have learned to accept the treatment requirements. A number of medical advances over the years have improved my quality of life. The biggest challenge is trying to fit the treatments into my busy schedule.”

So far there is no cure for the disease. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports a wide range of research that focuses on the hunt for a cure and improving the quality of life for patients. The disease afflicts roughly 70,000 people worldwide.

One in 30 people are carriers of the recessive Cystic Fibrosis gene. If a man is a carrier and marries a woman who is a carrier, the couple has a 25% chance of having a child with Cystic Fibrosis.

“We are partnering with the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by donating the prize money to them,” said ITD District 6 Engineer Jason Minzghor. “ITD is pleased to be able to contribute and, in this small way, be of assistance to Lina and others who deal with the genetic disease.”

“Last year, about 89 cents of each dollar of total foundation expenses was spent on research and medical, community and education programs,” said Ashley Barton, senior development director of the Utah and Idaho Chapter in Salt Lake City. The chapter is the nearest Cystic Fibrosis Foundation office in the region.

“We take pride in being an effective organization and are careful stewards of every dollar raised in support of our mission to further research and improve treatment,” Barton said.

Because Cystic Fibrosis is rare, the foundation doesn’t receive any federal funding, said chapter Executive Director Laura Hadley.

“Efforts of the chapter directly affect local Idaho communities and the patients cared for at the Cystic Fibrosis Care Center located at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise,” Hadley said. The care center at St. Luke’s is the only Cystic Fibrosis clinic in Idaho.

Lina typically visits the Cystic Fibrosis clinic for adults at the University of Utah Hospital. In her childhood, she visited the pediatric Cystic Fibrosis clinic at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

The Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation works with the Cystic Fibrosis Care Center at St. Luke’s to ensure standardized, quality care.

DOUBLE DOWN ON THORNTON: Eastern Idaho project wins President’s and People’s Choice awards, plus $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

The Idaho Transportation Department Thornton Interchange project won the America’s Transportation “People’s Choice” vote today, along with a President’s Award from a national transportation industry group.

The America’s Transportation Awards (ATA) and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) President’s Awards winners were announced today (Wednesday, Sept. 27) in Phoenix, Arizona.

The opening of the new Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg last November culminated 16 years of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built along a 34-mile stretch of the highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City.

Watch the video of the Thornton project.

Despite traffic volumes doubling during that time, improvements reduced serious-injury crashes by 75% and cut fatalities to less than one per year.

This marks the fourth Idaho project to advance to the national People’s Choice stage of America’s Transportation Awards since 2013. None of the four has finished lower than third in the public voting, furthering ITD’s reputation as a national leader. It is also the 11th AASHTO President’s Award for ITD since Director Brian Ness arrived in 2010.

ATA awards are a joint effort of AASHTO, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The new Thornton Interchange greatly improves safety and mobility in Eastern Idaho and is saving lives,” said Ness. “This award shows ITD is now recognized nationally as an agency that finds better, more innovative ways to build projects that put the focus on serving the citizens.”

Completion of the Thornton Interchange removes dangerous at-grade intersections and makes the busy route a continuous four-lane divided highway from Idaho Falls to Sugar City.

“This honor and the national awards we have won are all employee driven. We empower our team to make decisions closer to where the work is being done and that has made us a more efficient and effective organization,” Ness added. “It’s this philosophy that is helping us to become the best transportation department in the country.”

Several innovations during the project saved ITD almost $450,000.

“Providing the contractor with a 3-D model for the Thornton Interchange and requiring the contractor 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 eastern Idaho District Engineering Manager Wade Allen.

“ITD will partner with the Idaho/Utah Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by donating the prize money to them,” ITD eastern Idaho District Engineer Jason Minzghor said. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and eventually limits one’s ability to breathe.

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.

Eagle’s Salmon rescue, response to POE car fire show ITD concern for public safety

A few recent incidents highlight the safety role of Idaho Transportation Department workers in their everyday jobs, serving the citizens of Idaho. Here are a few of those stories:

Eagle’s Salmon rescue sheds light on fire-extinguisher checks

Like cellphones, or most of us after a few late nights in a row, fire extinguishers need to be recharged periodically to be at their full potential. That was never more evident than the morning of August 7, as ITD Salmon Maintenance Foreman Jeff Eagle raced to an overturned vehicle on US-93 and a young girl screaming for help inside.

He was her only hope at the moment, but even as he ran, he had to wonder if his fire extinguisher would even work.

On that Tuesday morning, Jeff started the day thinking about a sign installation. On his way back to Salmon, however, he glanced in his rear view mirror and witnessed a car over-correcting as it went off the road a few hundred feet behind him. The car came back across the roadway, but luckily there was no oncoming traffic. The car rolled.

“It was the most violent vehicle rollover I have ever witnessed,” said Eagle. “It went airborne and rolled at least 5 or 6 times and landed on its side against a landowner’s fence in an irrigation ditch.”

Eagle stopped and turned around to help. As the first one on the scene, he called StateComm and asked for an ambulance and sheriff to assist.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty when I ran to the vehicle. When I came upon the car, it was severely damaged and crushed. I couldn’t even tell what kind of car it was. What I saw next was horrifying. There was a young girl pinned under the rear axle of the car. She was awake but screaming. I tried to comfort her as well as I could.”

He then realized the engine was still running.

“I couldn’t believe there was still an engine left in the car. I had to shut the engine off before it caught fire. There was no one else involved in the wreck, so I tried to get my arm through the car window to shut off the engine. It was difficult and the key was bent, so my first attempt failed.”

With his adrenaline kicked in, the second attempt to turn the engine off was successful. “I was able to turn the key just enough to shut it off,” Eagle explained.

“I was somewhat relieved, but also knew it could still catch on fire from the hot engine. Then the second thought hit me.’ I HAVE NEVER CHECKED THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER IN MY ITD PICKUP TO SEE IF IT WAS STILL CHARGED.'”

“What would I have been able to do if the car would have caught on fire with that young girl pinned under it? Fortunately, it did not and my fire extinguisher was charged. What a break.”

“We have always been fairly good about checking the fire extinguishers in the buildings, but we need to be more diligent in checking the ones in the equipment and other vehicles in case we are put into this circumstance while doing our jobs.”

District 6 Safety Compliance Officer Ron Butler explained that fire extinguishers are checked annually and tested as needed. This year, we found six trucks, three loaders, and several pickups or cars with fire extinguishers that needed to be recharged. They had not been used, but had leaked off anyway.

“We try to get to all vehicles and buildings, but often miss a few because they are out on job sites, so check your extinguishers and if they don’t have a 2017 tag on them, change them out so you know you have a good working unit,” he added.

Eagle concurs.

“It only takes a minute. It would not hurt to have a fire extinguisher in our personal vehicles also,” he said.

Note: Eagle said the girl didn’t have to be Life Flighted from the scene, thank goodness!

 

East & West Boise POE inspectors help tame car fire Aug. 2          

ITD Port of Entry inspectors from the East and West Boise facilities collaborated to put out a car fire at the port on Aug. 2, with help from a couple of truck drivers.

Inspector Kyle Perkins spotted a car on fire from the shoulder of Interstate 84 just past the East Boise Port of Entry, and alerted Port of Entry inspectors on the westbound side. Devin Dascenzo, April Jordan, and Jeff Butler. Inspector Scott Conrad was already in route to the car fire from the east port.

Dascenzo and Butler grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran up the westbound ramp to the car fire, while April closed down the westbound port. By the time Devin and Jeff arrived, Conrad had already exhausted a pair of fire extinguishers from the port car. Two truck drivers stopped and added their own fire extinguishers to help tame the blaze.

Jeff and Devin sat up cones to keep interstate traffic away from the shoulder without closing down a lane of traffic, and then helped the driver gather as many of his personal items from the car as possible. Once fire responders left the scene, port personnel made sure a tow truck was in route.

The quick reaction helped prevent injury to the driver, stopped a potential wildfire and kept traffic safely moving.

 

Ah Yee’s parking premonition proves prophetic          

An observant employee’s decision to park a truck in mid-June kept north Idaho drivers safe.

Chance Ah Yee, an ITD Port of Entry Inspector at the Huetter POE, noticed that a driver was slow in his response to questions. The driver was having real difficulty. Chance became concerned.

The driver said that he had been sick for the past week and was feeling fatigued. To protect the traveling public and the driver, Chance ordered the driver to park his rig.

A month later the driver contacted the Huetter Port of Entry to thank Chance. The driver had suffered a stroke just one day after Ah Yee ordered the truck parked.

“Chance did a great job of sensing something was wrong and using his discretion to prevent a potential accident,” said ITD Compliance Manager Reymundo Rodriguez.

Idaho weigh-in-motion systems saved trucking industry 33,000 hours and $3.5 million in last year

Weigh-in-motion (WIM) systems like the one installed in February at the Inkom Port of Entry (POE) in southeast Idaho save the trucking industry huge chunks of time and money.

Trucks bypassing the port save an average of five minutes of time per incident, and almost a half a gallon of fuel. This amounts to a savings of about $8.68 per bypass. Commercial trucks using WIM to bypass Idaho ports saved 33,365 hours and more than 16,000 gallons of fuel in the last year.

There are four Idaho locations with WIM. From July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017, the impact was:

Huetter POE (Northern Idaho): 58,356 vehicle bypasses; savings = $506,530
Lewiston POE (North-Central Idaho): 89,049 vehicle bypasses; savings = $772,945
East Boise POE (Southwest Idaho): 247,378 vehicle bypasses; savings = $2,147,241
Inkom POE (Southeast Idaho): 5,600 vehicle bypasses (June only); savings = $48,608
TOTAL # of BYPASSES = 400,383; SAVINGS = $3.475 million

“These projects are an outstanding example of how the department is meeting its mission to improve safety, mobility and economic opportunity for Idaho and the nation,” Reymundo Rodriguez, DMV Compliance Manager, said.

The system allows commercial trucks that meet state size and weight limits to bypass weigh stations at highway speeds. An estimated 50 to 60 percent of commercial truck traffic will be able to bypass the ports.

Vehicles bypassing Ports of Entry facilities save drivers and companies valuable time on the road, reducing fuel and operating costs while increasing productivity. Vehicles that bypass also benefit the state and everyone who uses the highways by reducing congestion around weigh stations and enabling inspectors at the port to focus their efforts on carriers that demand the most attention.

Safety is a top concern for ITD – here are a few examples:

Idaho is home to a lot of rural roadways that present some unique safety challenges. Here are a few recent initiatives from ITD to improve public safety on those routes:

SPOTLIGHTING DANGEROUS CURVES
If you ever played a driving video game, then you’ve seen the big flashing arrows that warn you when a curve is coming up and which way to turn. You’re not very likely to run into the wall, but follow directional arrows around the curve and go for the finish line.

Big electronic flashing arrows might be effective in a fast-paced game, but would not be very efficient on some of Idaho’s rural highways.

Here’s the rest of the story

RURAL INTERSECTION CONFLICT WARNING SYSTEM
Rural highway intersections can be hazardous if drivers are not aware of upcoming stops and free-flowing traffic crossing their paths. Here’s a lower-cost system to help save lives.

Here’s the rest of the story