Open house in Bonners Ferry Dec. 14 will explain upcoming changes to US-95

US-95 will be improved from the Kootenai River Bridge to Alderson Lane.

COEUR d’ALENE–The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) invites the public to an open house on Thursday (Dec. 14) to learn about a project to improve safety on US-95 through Bonners Ferry.

The open house will be held at Boundary County Middle School from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The open house will begin with a brief presentation on the key aspects of the project. Following the presentation, ITD staff will be available to answer any questions, project manager Ben Ward said.

“This project will improve safety for the many users of US-95 by providing improved pedestrian facilities, reducing the number of approaches to the highway, and controlling snow and water drainage better,” Ward said.

The project will be built in two phases at an estimated construction cost of $9.4 million. ITD contractors will be required to keep one lane of US-95 open in each direction during the day with the option to reduce the highway to one lane at night. Access to businesses along the highway will remain open during construction, Ward said.

The first phase of the project includes improvements to the South Hill to be constructed in 2018, and the second phase includes improvements on US-95 from Alderson Lane to Madison Street to be constructed in 2019.

The project will reduce US-95 to two lanes on the South Hill, allowing for the designation of acceleration lanes in both directions near Ash Street to make turns onto the highway easier, especially for trucks turning left to go up the hill. These acceleration lanes can also be used to reroute traffic and avoid delays in the event of stalled rigs or crashes on the South Hill, said Dan Budd, an ITD designer for the project.

The new merging point for southbound traffic will be moved north from the Madison Street intersection to the Kootenai Street intersection. A protected crosswalk will be placed just south of the Madison Street intersection to provide safer crossing for children going to the city’s swimming pool. Getting traffic into one lane before the Madison intersection will make it safer for the many pedestrians who will cross there, Budd said.

“We want drivers approaching the Madison intersection to be looking forward at the crosswalk, not looking back over their shoulder while trying to merge into one lane,” Budd said. “Pedestrians, often children, use that intersection to cross to the local swimming pool.”

The new crosswalk will be equipped with pedestrian-activated, high-intensity lights to bring drivers’ attention to the crosswalk and allow pedestrians to cross safely, Budd said.

As part of the first phase of the project, ITD contractors also will upgrade the streetlights on the South Hill to be more efficient, and the existing sidewalk will be expanded from 5 feet to 8 feet, Budd said.

Highway improvements from Alderson Lane to Madison Street include the creation of a consistent three-lane highway with wider shoulders to accommodate bicyclists and 6-foot sidewalks separated from the highway by a grass buffer, all illuminated by new lights.

The project will also remove the signal at Alderson Lane. ITD initially considered upgrading the signal due to its age, but further analysis determined that the signal was not warranted by the volume of vehicles using it, even during peak summer traffic, Ward said.

Those unable to attend the open house may view details by visiting the project website at http://arcg.is/P584v. The website also features general responses to comments received from three meetings held by ITD during the design process. Any additional questions about the project should be addressed to Ben Ward at (208) 772-1218 or Ben.Ward@itd.idaho.gov.

 

Public invited to hearing in CDA on Tuesday (Nov. 28) to discuss upcoming ID-41 changes

ID-41 Mullan to Prairie Public Meeting

COEUR d’ALENE—Project planners invite the public to attend a hearing on Tuesday (Nov. 28) to give their feedback about the conversion of Idaho Highway 41 into a divided four-lane highway from Mullan Avenue to Prairie Avenue in Post Falls.

Held at the Coeur d’Alene office of the Idaho Transportation Department from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., the hearing will give the public the opportunity to view exhibits and provide input on the project, ITD project manager Lee Bernardi said.

The project will improve the safety of the highway and meet future traffic demands for the area, Bernardi said.

The comment period for ID-41 improvements from Mullan Avenue to Prairie Avenue will begin with the public hearing on Nov. 28 and close on Dec. 12. Those unable to attend the hearing can still comment by visiting the project website.

“This region is one of the fastest-growing in the nation right now,” Bernardi said. “State highway 41 will experience a significant growth in users. This project will address the traffic and safety needs of the anticipated growth.”

The route connects the developing cities of Post Falls and Rathdrum and serves as an alternative north-south route for US-95. Statistics show that crash severity and fatality rates for ID-41 are greater than the statewide average for similar highways, confirming the need to address both capacity and safety issues for the highway, Bernardi said.

ID-41 16th Ave to Prairie Ave Typical Section
The project also includes traffic signal upgrades at the intersections of 16th, Poleline and Prairie avenues with ID-41, as well as the installation of a new light at Hope Avenue. A path for bikers and pedestrians will be built on the east side of the highway to further connect Post Falls to Rathdrum, Bernardi said.

“We encourage comments from the public,” Bernardi said. “We want the public to be involved in the process because it’s ultimately for them. They’re our users, and we want the project to meet their needs.”

ITD contractors will begin construction in 2020 and finish in 2021. Contractors will minimize traffic impacts by building the new northbound lanes while the public continues to use the existing two-lane highway. Once the northbound lanes are finished, traffic will be redirected to those new lanes while contractors rebuild the old portion of ID-41. At the end of construction, the public will be able to travel on a divided four-lane highway from Mullan Avenue to Prairie Avenue, Bernardi said.

This $14.5 million project is part of a larger reconstruction project to improve ID-41 from Mullan Avenue in Post Falls to Boekel Road in Rathdrum. Improvements for the entire highway between Post Falls and Rathdrum are anticipated to be completed by 2021 at an estimated cost of $39 million, Bernardi said.

Interested parties may attend a separate public meeting in January 2018 for ID-41 improvements from Prairie Avenue to Boekel Road, said John Vaudreuil, ITD project manager for that section of the highway.

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.

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.

St. Maries Detour Paving to Start Next Week

St. Maries 10th Street Detour

Crews may start paving the detour route as early as Tuesday, Oct. 24, during daylight hours. This work will take place on Riverside Avenue, Railroad Avenue, 10th Street and 1st Street, and is in preparation for the closure of the railroad bridge.

10th Street between Idaho and Main Avenues will be closed to through traffic on Tuesday, Oct. 24, and the other roadways will be reduced to one lane intermittently as paving takes place for up to four days.

Business access will be maintained, and access through each area will be controlled by flaggers. Please expect minor dust, noise, vibrations and parking restrictions as this work is completed. Visit the project page or call 208-292-8515 for more project information.

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.

Transportation department to host public meeting June 21 on U.S. 95 improvements

COEUR D’ALENE – A public meeting will be held Wednesday (June 21) to share information on planned improvements to a section of U.S. 95.

The meeting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Idaho Transportation Department’s district office at 600 W. Prairie Avenue, Coeur d’Alene. Project staff will be available to answer questions, and displays will illustrate information. Those interested in attending can stop by any time within those three hours.

The transportation department, Kootenai Metropolitan Planning Organization, city of Coeur d’Alene and city of Hayden received a FASTLANE grant to make improvements along 8.9 miles of U.S. 95. The improvements will be from Interstate 90 to the U.S. 95 intersection with Idaho 53. FASTLANE grants are given to regionally and nationally significant highway projects that improve safety, reduce congestion and contribute to economic opportunity, among other improvements.

Improvements include correcting traffic signal spacing to remove two traffic signals and add two traffic signals, adding adaptive signal timing, modifying vehicle-median crossings at non-signalized locations to reduce the number of crossing conflict points and adding left turn lanes and right turn lanes at certain locations to improve mobility on side streets.

Comments are being accepted on the improvements, and can be e-mailed to CarrieAnn Hewitt at carrieann.hewitt@itd.idaho.gov, or mailed to Hewitt at Idaho Transportation Department, 600 W. Prairie Avenue, Coeur d’Alene, ID  83815.

For additional information, please visit: http://itd.idaho.gov/d1/?target=planning, and click on “US-95 N Corridor Access Improvement.”

Those with questions about the public meeting or U.S. 95 improvements can call CarrieAnn at (208) 772-1230.

Major construction planned in Coeur d’Alene area this summer

Major construction will impact north Idaho traffic in and around the Coeur d’Alene area this summer. Interstate 90, U.S. 95, and other area roads will be impacted. The Idaho Transportation Department is partnering with the city to reach out to the driving public with critical information on these upcoming impacts.

There may be five or six projects within a five-mile radius of town. The projects will repair and replace deficient pavements and upgrade routes and signs.

You can see a map of the projects here.

The pavement being replaced is deficient, and some of the work can be directly linked to this year’s rough winter. These projects will result in more efficient traffic flow, better visibility and improved safety.

Drivers are encouraged to slow down, pay attention and be aware. There will be lane closures, lane shifts, reduced speeds, and delays. Motorists may need to plan alternate routes if possible.  One of the best things a driver can do is check the traveler information system at 511.idaho.gov frequently.

Train derailment closes lanes on U.S. 95

Train Derailed near U.S. 95

Coeur d’Alene – Multiple train cars derailed ten miles north of Athol, ID near the roadway Monday, spilling corn and posing a danger to drivers on U.S. 95. ITD immediately closed southbound lanes to travel, placing flaggers on the road to direct two-way traffic on the northbound lanes. Watch aerial video of the derailment below.

Motorists can expect both southbound lanes will be closed for the next two weeks while crews remove 25 derailed cars. Crews on scene have observed an increase in animals approaching the wreck to eat the spilled corn, so drivers should use caution in the area.

ITD engineers have been unable to determine the extent of the damage the derailment caused. Primary concern focuses on an approach to U.S. 95 where the cars derailed.

ITD will continue to work with BNSF to ensure safe travel near the derailment.

Mudslide caught on camera totally covers road

U.S. 95 Slide

ITD crews were on scene with cameras rolling as a hillside broke free and covered a section of U.S. 95 south of Bonners Ferry on Friday, April 7.

In the video, you can see tons of mud, rocks, and trees slide down, pushing two layers of concrete barriers off the road. Overall, 800 cubic yards of debris slid onto the road.

Thanks to quick action of ITD crews on scene, no one was injured by the slide. ITD Land Surveyor Mathew Wilson, who took the video, was assessing the hillside stability. He heard popping and cracking and knew another slide was imminent. Thinking quickly, the flaggers on scene stopped traffic and just three minutes later the hillside gave way.

ITD crews cleared the debris from the road Friday evening. Additionally, crews dug out an extra 600 cubic yards of dirt beside the road to create a channel for water to run.

Currently, ITD is keeping one lane open on this section for the safety of the traveling public. Cars will travel on the southbound lane, away from the hillside. Flaggers will direct traffic and actively monitor the area.

This section of hillside continues to be unstable. Crews have noted progressive shifting near U.S. 95. Rain is in the forecast and there remains 18 inches of snow above the slide area. ITD is working with geology specialists to assess the situation. With public safety as a priority, additional traffic control measures may be taken.

Several areas of North Idaho are impacted by this year’s historic winter precipitation. Slides have occurred on Idaho State Highways 3, 5, 57, and 97.