ITD urges travelers to celebrate responsibly

The day before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest drinking days of the year.

The Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel times of the year with millions of Americans hitting the road to spend time with family. The holiday’s celebratory spirit also makes it one of the most dangerous periods on our roads.

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become one of the biggest drinking holidays of the year.

“It’s the biggest drinking event we don’t talk about,” said Ken Corder from the Office of Highway Safety (OHS). “A lot of us like to catch up with old friends while we’re home for the holiday and to be honest and many of those meetings happen in a bar.”

This trend has resulted in what is being called “Blackout Wednesday” and it has been deadly on roads across our country. Over the last five years, an estimated 800 people were killed across the country as a result of impaired driving during the Thanksgiving holiday (6:00 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday). In 2016, an 37 people died each day during the Thanksgiving period.

In an effort to reduce impaired driving crashes, OHS is joining with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and every state across the country in a social media blitz.

“We want to start the conversation to get people home safely,” Corder said. “If you plan to drink, designate a driver, call a cab, or use a ride share app. You’re there to enjoy the holiday with family and friends – don’t let a bad decision ruin that for all.”

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).

ITD to protect travelers during No Refusal Weekend

Local law enforcement agencies gather with partners to announce the No Refusal Weekend.

Photo above: Law enforcement agencies gather with partners to announce the No Refusal Weekend.

 

COEUR d’ALENE – With help from the Idaho Transportation Department, various law enforcement agencies in Kootenai County are expanding measures to protect the traveling public this holiday season, beginning with the No Refusal Weekend during Thanksgiving week.

“Drug- or alcohol-impaired driving is the leading cause of fatal crashes in Idaho,” said John Kempf, a captain with the Idaho State Police (ISP), during a press conference Thursday (Nov. 16).

Kempf said seven people died from six fatal crashes in Kootenai County in October — a significant number considering that during the last three years, there have been eight fatalities on average in the county for the entire year.

Of those six fatal crashes in October, ISP suspects five were alcohol or drug related, Kempf said.

In response, law enforcement agencies are launching a county-wide campaign to catch impaired drivers and prevent fatal crashes. Nick Knoll, an officer from the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, coordinated with other law enforcement agencies and the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Highway Safety to produce the No Refusal Weekend.

The No Refusal Weekend includes educational opportunities for the public but also marks the beginning of emphasis patrols for the holiday season. There will be 15 extra officers throughout the county Nov. 24-25, patrolling specifically for impaired drivers, Knoll said.

Knoll said these emphasis patrols were made possible by federal funding administered by ITD.

“ITD approved grants for local law enforcement agencies to cover the additional costs that will result from these extra patrols to enforce traffic safety,” said Lisa Losness, a grants officer for the Office of Highway Safety.

Five law enforcement agencies within Kootenai County applied for funding to pay the overtime wages of officers, with requests ranging from $500 to $1,500, to take part in the No Refusal Weekend, Losness said.

Viewers will have a chance to learn what makes the weekend unique by visiting the Facebook page of the Post Falls Police Department for a virtual ride-along experience starting at 8 p.m. on Saturday (Nov. 25), Knoll said.

If drivers are pulled over and refuse to take a breath test during emphasis patrols on No Refusal Weekend, officers will attempt to obtain a search warrant to have specially trained officers collect blood samples. Local law enforcement agencies note that those who refuse to cooperate with breath testing tend to have a significant history of DUIs and a high blood alcohol content when tested, Knoll said.

Test results from blood samples ultimately shorten court proceedings and save police departments time and money, Knoll said.

For those drivers stopped during the No Refusal Weekend for reasons unrelated to impaired driving, Knoll said Fire Artisan Pizza in Coeur d’Alene has provided officers with coupons to hand out as a thank-you to sober drivers.

ISP will offer alcohol beverage control training to any interested servers or bartenders at its Coeur d’Alene office at 1 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 21). The public is also invited to attend an informational booth in the Resort Plaza Shops before and after the Coeur d’Alene Lighting Ceremony Parade on Friday (Nov. 24). Visitors can wear “beer goggles” that simulate impaired driving, Knoll said.

Football fans who visit the booth can enter to win a football signed by Mark Rypien, the Washington Redskins’ MVP from Super Bowl XXVI, said Kootenai County Sheriff Wolfinger.

Parade viewers can also cheer on the No Refusal Weekend float and its theme of “Be a Hero. Prevent Impaired Driving” and know that the law enforcement agencies escorting the float have already partnered to protect travelers this holiday season.

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.

Comment sought on Public Transportation Plan for next 30 days

For the next 30 days, the Idaho Transportation Department’s Public Transportation Office (ITD-PT) is asking for input on their draft Statewide Public Transportation Plan, and six Local Coordinated Plans.

The plans are located in the ITD-PT website page.

The overarching goal of the Idaho Statewide Public Transportation Plan is to support and help provide a framework for an integrated public transportation system that meets the mobility needs of Idahoans. The Statewide Plan identifies and will support programs and projects in line with the Federal Transit Administration’s programs goals, as well as the Idaho Transportation Department’s mission of Your Safety, Your Mobility, Your Economic Opportunity.

In addition, the plan will be supplemented by the Local Coordinated Public Transit-Human Services Transportation Plans from the rural jurisdictions within the six ITD Districts around the state.

The Statewide Plan and the Local Coordinated Plans examine the current state of public transportation in Idaho, what gaps and needs exist, how those gaps and needs can be addressed, and what public transportation in Idaho can look like in the next five years.

Anyone interested in having their voice heard and would like to comment is asked to send remarks to ITD-PT Grants Officer Rachel Pallister at Rachel.Pallister@itd.idaho.gov.

A final draft will be presented to the Idaho Transportation Board for adoption following the comment period.

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.

 

 

South Midway Road Closure Oct. 31-Nov. 5 in Canyon County

 
Weather permitting, South Midway Road will be closed from Tuesday,Oct. 31 at 7 a.m. to Sunday, Nov. 5.

  • Motorists heading south on Midway Road will be detoured to Orchard Avenue via Middleton Road or Lake Avenue.
  • Residents will be able to access their homes using the designated detour route.
  • These closures may vary depending upon weather conditions.

ITD recommends motorists plan ahead, slow down, and find an alternate route.

ID-55 South Midway Road Detouor


For more information go to the ID-55: Karcher Road Project web page.
 
Sign up for ID-55: Karcher Road Construction Updates
TEXT: IDAHO55 to 22828  |  CALL: 208-334-8938  |  EMAIL: Jennifer.Gonzalez@itd.idaho.gov
 

ITD Office of Highway Safety launches SHIFT Idaho engaged-driving campaign

Whether it’s a drive around the block or a trip across the state, there is no shortage of distractions to take your mind off the road. To help Idahoans stay focused on the drive, ITD’s Office of Highway Safety is launching a new engaged-driving program called SHIFT.

The idea behind engaged driving is to create an opportunity for Idahoans to start thinking and talking about what’s appropriate behind the wheel and in the passenger’s seat. SHIFT is a program designed to help share techniques and strategies to reduce distractions and grow driver engagement.

“A distraction is anything that takes your mind away from the road,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “There are obvious distractions and others we may not even recognize – but we all know what it means to be engaged and we really want to highlight those behaviors.”

This approach is based on the concept of Positive Culture Framework, a system that promotes health and safety by building on shared values, beliefs and attitudes.

“Most people in Idaho are doing the right thing,” said Tomlinson. “SHIFT is our opportunity to grow those good behaviors and make our roads safer.”

Unlike traditional highway safety campaigns, SHIFT combines efforts to reach drivers directly through different media with workplace engagement. A pilot program is currently underway to develop a toolkit to help teach employers how to talk to their employees about engaged driving. The pilot sites will test different tools and review workplace distracted driving policies to see what can be done to impact driver behavior.

“We feel the right combination of policy, education and reinforcement at the workplace can help us move the needle,” Tomlinson said. “We really believe this layered approach will help us create safer roads and a safer Idaho.”
To learn more about the program, visit shift-idaho.org

ID-3: St. Maries Bridge Replacements Schedule Adjusted

In the original St. Maries Bridge Replacements project schedule, the railroad bridge was to be constructed prior to the river bridge. However, with unforeseen delays during the first several weeks, there is no longer time to construct the railroad bridge without impacting the construction of river bridge, and the river bridge construction is the critical path to overall project completion. The project team is currently reworking the construction schedule with the Idaho Department of Transportation. This will NOT change the overall completion date of the project.

The schedule below reflects the new proposed timeline. The only difference between this and the original schedule is the timing of the railroad bridge work:

  • Early winter 2017 through late winter 2018: Crews will construct the river bridge foundation.
    • Riverside Ave between 4th and 1st Streets will be closed intermittently.
    • Additional intermittent lane closures will take place as needed to mobilize equipment.
  • Late winter through summer 2018: Crews will construct the west half of the new river bridge and will complete improvements on Railroad Ave.
    • The road will be reduced to one lane with a temporary signal to direct traffic.
    • Delays during peak hours can be expected.
    • A pedestrian pathway will be maintained.
  • Summer through fall 2018: Crews will remove and replace the railroad bridge.
    • The detour through town will be in place.
  • Summer through winter 2018: Crews will construct the east half of the river bridge.
    • Two-way traffic will be shifted onto the new west side of the bridge.
    • A pedestrian pathway will be maintained.

Please note that this schedule is still subject to change as the design is further developed and as critical subcontractors are secured.

Crews will complete the detour paving today in preparation for the railroad bridge closure in summer 2018. However, for approximately one week in the near future, the railroad bridge will be closed, and the detour route will be put into effect. This will take place as crews repair a utility pipe that broke last week.

Once the pipe is repaired, roadway impacts will be minimal until the river bridge is reduced to one lane in late winter 2018.

For questions or concerns call Gemma Puddy at 208-292-8515.

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).