Black Cat Road closed at Chinden, July-August 2020

Intersection of Black Cat and Chinden with stop sign

Black Cat Road Closure MapBlack Cat Road will close beginning July 6 to all traffic between Larry Lane and Chinden Boulevard (US 20/26) and to through traffic between McMillan Road and Chinden, as crews make improvements to the Chinden/Black Cat intersection as part of the ChindenWest project.

Work is scheduled to occur during the day and be complete in early August. Crews will be working in the area prior to the closure relocating utilities. Although not expected, night work is allowable.

When complete, Black Cat will have a dedicated left-turn lane to Chinden and a center turn lane that connects to the existing three-lane configuration south of Larry Lane.Black Cat, Chinden Intersection design

Traffic will be detoured via Chinden and McMillan to McDermott Road and Ten Mile Road.

Project Overview

Construction is ongoing in segments of Chinden between Eagle Road and Star Road. Specifically, paving operations to widen the highway to two-lanes in each direction is underway between Linder Road and State Highway 16, and turning movements are restricted between Locust Grove Road and Eagle as crews prepare this segment for widening. Most work is scheduled for completion in late fall 2020.

The corridor, dubbed ChindenWest, is a vital east-west corridor in the heart of the Treasure Valley. The construction will add travel lanes, widen shoulders, and build a separated path parallel to the roadway.

The project website, ITDprojects.org/ChindenWest, serves as a hub of information for the public, including videos that provide a window into the future. The one-stop-shop website includes detailed information about construction activities, anticipated traffic impacts, and the improvement designs.

Idaho Goes Hands-Free July 1

A driver heads down I-84 in Meridian with both hands on the wheel.
On July 1, 2020 drivers in Idaho will no longer be able to use handheld electronic devices while driving.

Idaho is about to become the latest state to have a hands-free driving law on the books. Earlier this year the Idaho legislature passed House Bill 614 banning the use of handheld electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. The new law takes effect on July 1.

Distracted driving is a contributing factor in about one out of every five crashes in Idaho. Between 2014 and 2018, there were 241 people killed in distracted driving crashes across the state with hundreds more seriously injured.

While most of us choose to drive engaged by putting away distractions and focusing on the road – the new law may be a timely reminder for others to drive well.

Here are some answers to questions you might have about Idaho’s newest traffic safety law:

We already have a distracted driving law, so how is this new law different?

In 2012, the legislature passed a law that prohibited texting — this statute will be repealed once the new law becomes effective. The old law focused on the act of texting and driving and did not provide provisions for other uses of phones like using social media, watching or capturing videos, or playing video games. The new law accounts for many of the additional ways we use electronic devices.

Another notable change in the law is its definition of operating a motor vehicle. For the former texting and driving law to be enforced, it required the driver to be texting while driving a vehicle in motion. The new law applies when you drive or have physical control of a motor vehicle in a travel lane on a public roadway – even if you are temporarily stopped at a stop sign or a traffic signal. Keep in mind, if you are parked out of the travel lane, you can use your phone.

Under the new law, use of a handheld electronic device becomes a moving violation and carries a progressive fine for multiple violations within a three year period.

My city already has a hands-free ordinance, do I need to keep that in mind?

Once the law takes effect, it will preempt all local ordinances in relation to hands-free driving. In other words, the expectation statewide is that we put our phones away while we drive.

Will drivers get a chance to get used to the new law? 

One of the provisions of the new law is that people won’t receive citations for violations in the first six months in order to educate the public about the new law. But just because law enforcement officers aren’t issuing citations doesn’t mean they aren’t enforcing the law. You can still be stopped by officers is they see you driving with a handheld device.

There are a lot of other distractions, so why are we only focusing on the phone?

Distracted driving happens when you participate in any activity that takes your attention away from the act of driving. Anyone who drives can tell attest to the fact that there is a nearly endless list of possible distractions.

No matter the distraction, it falls into one of three categories: manual, visual, or cognitive. When you use a phone or other handheld electronic device you are participating in all three types of distractions at once. Putting the phone away eliminates two of these three types of distractions and put you in a position to be better prepared to anticipate and react to the road.

Construction of upgraded I-84 interchange at Northside Boulevard proceeds this weekend

Northside Detoure Route

Following the completion of the median lanes for Interstate 84 in Nampa, crews will finish the removal the old Northside Boulevard Interchange structure this weekend.

The interchange is being upgraded to a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI). This design is safer and more efficient than the traditional diamond interchange design and has been successful across the Treasure Valley at Ten Mile Rd., Meridian Rd., and Vista Ave. A notable difference with the Northside SPUI is that the on and off ramps will meet beneath the Interstate instead of above them.

Graphic rendering of new SPUI interchange
Graphic rendering of the new Northside SPUI

This work will require several impacts in the short-term.

Overnight Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20, Northside Blvd. will be closed between the Interstate ramps while crews demolish the remainder of the old bridge structure. I-84 will be reduced to one lane of travel in each direction. Those impacts will be in place from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day. Northside traffic will use a marked detour route (click for a detour map).

Beginning next week, crews will excavate the embankments of the old bridge to create additional room to shift Northside traffic. In July, Northside traffic will shift to temporary pavement on the west, allowing construction of the new features to the east. This is expected to take several months to complete.

When improvements are complete on the east side, traffic will be shifted to the new travel lanes and crews will begin constructing the new features on the west side of the interchange.

Throughout the reconstruction, two lanes in each direction will be maintained on Northside during the day. ITD anticipates nightly closures of a lane in each direction on Northside between Shannon Drive and Karcher Road.

Aerial graphic of new Northside SPUI

The upgraded SPUI will feature additional safety and capacity for vehicles. It will include new bicycle lanes and sidewalks on Northside. The eastbound on-ramp and westbound off-ramp will be a gentler grade, allowing vehicles to more-easily get up to highway speed when entering or slow down when exiting.

For more information about I-84 improvements in Canyon County, visit ITDprojects.org/84corridor.

Southbound Eagle Road right turn lane from Eastbound Chinden closed during construction

Construction near the intersection of Chinden and Eagle Road

The dedicated right turn lane to Eagle Road from eastbound Chinden is closed during construction. Drivers are able to turn right to southbound Eagle Road from the thru lane.

This lane configuration will allow crews to construct new roadway on the south side of Chinden. Commuters should expect increased delays and use alternate routes when possible.

Additionally, Locust Grove at its intersection with Chinden will be closed the night of Friday, May 29th. Traffic will be detoured on McMillan Road to Meridian and Eagle roads.

For information specific to this one-mile section please visit https://itdprojects.org/chindenwestlocusttoeagle/

Westbound I-84 to close east of Mtn Home for control burn operation Tuesday

BLM fire crew conducts controlled burn along a highway

The Idaho Transportation Department will close a section of Interstate 84 east of Mountain Home tomorrow morning, allowing BLM crews to conduct a controlled burn of vegetation along the highway.

The closure will be for westbound traffic only between Exit 112 and Exit 90. Traffic will be detoured off I-84 at Exit 112 (Hammett Hill Rd.), travel on Old Highway 30, and rejoin the Interstate at Exit 90 (I-84B in Mountain Home).

“We definitely want to thank ITD for being a great partner every year,” said Jared Jablonski, Fire Information Officer for the Boise District BLM. “We have spring meetings every year and we work together on mitigating fire risk along the highway.”

Check out this video of a controlled burn from earlier this year along Idaho Highway 51.

 

ITD has partnered with the Boise District Bureau of Land Management on vegetation control since 2007. Since that time, the annual number of fire starts along this section of the Interstate has dropped significantly.

“The savings to the taxpayer from this activity are considerable,” said Carl Vaughn, ITD foreman out of Mountain Home. “Fewer starts means we don’t have to close the road, firefighters can be deployed elsewhere, and public and private land adjacent to the Interstate are spared the damage of catastrophic wildfires. It’s also helped reduce animal strikes along the Interstate.”

The BLM regularly conducts controlled burns along Southwest Idaho highways during the spring. There is a narrow window when temperatures are low and new vegetation is greening up where crews can conduct controlled burns in Idaho’s desert steppe. The spring activity pays dividends during peak fire season.

“When the summertime rolls around, roadside vegetation really does become a problem, as far as unnecessary human-caused fires along the roadway,” said Jablonski. “The more fuel we can get rid of in a controlled setting, the more benefit it is to us.”

ITD and the BLM remind travelers to be fire wise and make choices to prevent wildfires this year. Two common causes of man-made wildfires are tow chains dragging on the road and sparking or hot cars parking in grassy areas. Ensure tow chains are elevated off the ground and avoid parking in areas where exhaust pipes or a catalytic converter is contacting dry grass.

Chinden (U.S. 20/26) reduced to one lane at Locust Grove for utility installation

back hoe, loader, and semi truck near the intersection of Locust Grove and Chinden

Chinden Boulevard (US 20/26) at its intersection with Locust Grove Road, will be reduced to one lane with flagger control, Tuesday and Wednesday this week (April 21 and 22) between 9 am and 3 pm, while crews install underground utilities. Traffic will resume to two-lanes, one in each direction, after 3 pm each day.

Significantly reduced traffic in the area has provided the opportunity to perform this work during daylight hours, and expedite the overall project schedule. Traffic on Locust Grove will be open in both directions, controlled by flaggers through the intersection.

Please visit www.ITDProjects.org/ChindenWest for up-to-date information and opportunities to participate.

National Work Zone Awareness Week from April 20-24 reminds drivers to continue to watch out for work zones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction and maintenance operations continue and are essential to Idaho’s response to allow for the essential delivery of goods, medical equipment and other important services throughout the state and the nation.

Idaho Highway 21 re-opens after earthquake damage closure

Two loaders clear an avalanche slide

ITD crews have finished cleaning up tons of rock, dirt and snow on Idaho Highway 21 between Lowman and Stanley one week after a record 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck the area.

The earthquake triggered several avalanches and landslides in Canyon Creek, an 11-mile corridor west of Stanley. Large boulders shaken loose dropped hundreds of feet to the highway, causing damage to the roadway. Aftershocks and the threat of additional landslides kept crews out of the area until Sunday, April 5.

“The earthquake was the second-largest on record in Idaho,” said Bill Nicholson, who leads the Avalanche Crew in Lowman. “I’ve been here thirteen years and never seen so much rock and earth hit the highway. Thankfully, we have a great partnership with USGS and the Geophysics Department at Boise State. They kept us updated on conditions, which helped us understand the situation and know when it was safe to get back in and start cleaning up.”

Maintenance crews from Lowman and Stanley attacked the clean-up from both sides. In just four days, they removed the debris and patched up the road before re-opening the highway to traffic.

“The community of Stanley sees Highway 21 as an important connection,” said Stanley shed foreman Brad Lynch. “It’s the most direct route to Boise and the Treasure Valley. During this pandemic, it was a concern having the route closed. I know my neighbors will breathe easier knowing we punched through and opened it up.”

In total, operators removed an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of debris from the highway. Several boulders were too large to be removed as-is. In such cases, crews used the “Boulder Buster” to break the boulders into a more manageable size.

“It was a great team effort,” said Brian Inwards, foreman for the Lowman shed. “The whole operation went incredibly well. Everyone pitched in and made it happen.”

ITD warns the traveling public on this corridor or other mountain highways of the increased risk of seasonal rockfall. Please drive with caution. Additional repairs to damaged guardrail will be completed this summer.

Idaho Highway 52 pavement rehabilitation in Emmett begins in mid-April

intersection of ID-52 and ID-16 in Emmett Idaho

Reconstruction of Idaho Highway 52 (Washington Avenue) through downtown Emmett will begin in mid-April.

The current pavement has reached the end of its service life. The pavement rehabilitation includes milling the old road surface, replacing it with new pavement, and upgrading ADA (Americans with Disabilities) facilities, including crosswalks and adding a sidewalk in front of KT Lanes Bowling Alley.

Construction will start near the intersection of ID-52 and ID-16 near South Boise Avenue, and continue on Washington Avenue to approximately Carson Street near the Payette River. It is scheduled to be complete in early summer.

During construction, expect the following:

  • Work will occur between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. up to seven days a week.
  • Businesses will have at least one access point throughout the project.
  • Drivers should anticipate a temporary gravel road surface during construction activities.
  • No on-street parking will be permitted in the work zone.
  • Sidewalk access and pedestrian detours will be signed.

Flaggers may also guide motorists through the work zone during some phases of construction. Drivers are encouraged to slow down and pay attention to crews working in the area.

For questions or to sign up for construction updates, please call 208.334.8363, email phoebe.wallace@itd.idaho.gov, or visit the project website at itdprojects.org/id52repave.

New traffic-tracker tool from ITD shows significant decline in vehicle trips on Idaho highways

Screenshot of the traffic tracker tool

The Idaho Transportation Department has launched a new traffic-tracking tool that allows government agencies, emergency services, and the public to see the latest changes in driver behavior on Idaho highways.

You can access the tool at: https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/02bb18c4ed0f4fe1a5e57f7d39621bb9

The tool uses preliminary data to provide information faster in an easy-to-understand format. This information can help government leaders gauge ongoing economic activity. Emergency services can look to ensure critical transportation routes remain open.

“Traffic data like this is desired by numerous groups,” said Margaret Pridmore, Roadway Data Manager for ITD. “This will provide information closer to real-time than our traditional measurements. That information is helpful as decision-makers navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Early results have shown a decline in travel across the state. For example, the week after COVID-19 was first confirmed in Idaho, there was an estimated 30% drop in trips on the I-184 connector. Following the stay-home order from Governor Brad Little, traffic dropped an additional estimated 26% at that location.

“One interesting thing we observed occurred in Eastern Idaho. While traffic volumes typically decreased in the days after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Idaho, I-15 traffic increased for several days. Personnel in those districts observed a lot of Canadians heading home in fear that the US-Canada border could be closed in the near future.”

The data is not as thoroughly vetted for quality as normal, meaning some abnormalities may arise. However, Pridmore is leading a team to provide the best quality information on a short deadline as can be achieved. The information is updated within 72 hours of the data being received.

ITD responds to 6.5 magnitude earthquake

two landslides fell across idaho highway 21

ITD maintenance and bridge personnel are cleaning up debris and inspecting infrastructure after a 6.5 magnitude earthquake shook the Idaho Central Mountains Tuesday night.

Several mountain highways saw rockfall on the roadway following the quake. That includes Idaho Highway 75 (ID-75) near Stanley, ID-21 north and south of Lowman, ID-55 between Horseshoe Bend and Cascade, and ID-52 east of Emmett. Maintenance crews were immediately deployed to clear these hazards from the roadway and ensure the road was safe for travel.

Aftershocks continue to rock the region, causing additional rockfall. Crews are patrolling these high-risk areas to actively clean rocks from the highway. ITD urges the traveling public to use caution when driving in these areas.

NO IMMEDIATE CONCERN FOR BRIDGES

After the earthquake, maintenance crews scanned bridge structures for damage. At this time, there has been no damage of concern noted and the highways remain open. As is always the case, if any issue is spotted, ITD will immediately close a bridge.

ITD’s Bridge Department is conducting more-detailed analysis of the situation. They are conducting additional analysis of structures closer to the earthquake’s epicenter. Over the next several weeks, inspections will be conducted on priority structures to determine whether damage has been done and repairs are needed.

IDAHO HIGHWAY 21 CLOSED BETWEEN LOWMAN AND STANLEY

A storm system dumped 27” of snow in the Canyon Creek section of Idaho Highway 21, from Grandjean to Banner Summit. This increased the risk of avalanches and ITD closed the highway at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, several hours before the earthquake.

The earthquake did cause several slides to fall onto the highway in this section. Crews entered the area to begin clean-up Tuesday night and quickly found the landslides were extensive. The crew contacted U.S. Geological Survey, which informed them of aftershocks and the risk of additional landslides. The crew withdrew and will remain out of the canyon until USGS has determined the risk of aftershocks is reduced.

At this time, the number and extent of landslides on this section are unknown. There is no timeframe when crews can re-enter the Canyon and begin clearing the road. Additional repairs to the roadway may be required as well. The Department is advising it may be many days before this section of ID-21 re-opens. Idaho Highway 75 and U.S. 93 remain open to access Stanley.

ONGOING ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Per Governor Brad Little’s Stay-Home Order, the ongoing maintenance and operation of roads are essential services and will continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. ITD crews will continue to respond to rockfall and other hazards created by the record earthquake. Additional essential services, such as plowing snow, pothole repair, and striping will also continue. The Department is committed to safely executing its Mission: “Your Safety. Your Mobility. Your Economic Opportunity.”