New landslide database provides tool for project development and hazard mitigation

The Idaho Geological Survey (IGS) is helping the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) learn more from landslides in the Gem State. A new statewide inventory database of landslide and rock fall hazards released by IGS in late June will assist ITD, emergency managers, and planners with forecasting and hazard mitigation by identifying problematic hot spots.

The project was sponsored by ITD’s Division of Highways – Construction and Materials team and funded through ITD’s Research Program.

The inventory contains more than 2,400 landslide entries spanning from prehistoric to active events. It’s posted on the IGS website and can be accessed through an interactive webmap service.

The information was also added to ITD’s IPLAN online ArcGIS platform. The database includes attributes to maintain MSE retaining wall locations and risk factors to evaluate the condition of the wall, as well as attributes for rock fall risk, so ITD districts can assess the problematic areas that could cause road closures.

Data were compiled from historic archives, information provided by ITD geotechnical staff and district geologists, unpublished IGS field observations, analysis of LiDAR imagery, remote sensing, satellite images, and newly mapped landslides.

“The study represents a live catalog of mass movements across the state with a particular focus on transportation corridors and urban areas,” said State Geologist and IGS Director Claudio Berti. “The database is a tool for documenting and assessing slope stability hazards. It is not intended to predict future events, but to document known events and show broad patterns of occurrence.”

This new database replaces the last inventory published in 1991, a static map no longer suitable for modern digital analyses. The 2021 version will be kept up to date as new events occur or new information becomes available.

Landslide problem areas in Idaho include: Bonners Ferry, Clearwater River Basin, Horseshoe Bend, Boise Foothills, Hagerman, U.S. 95 between Pollock and Lucile, and U.S. 26 between Swan Valley and the Wyoming border. Geologic characteristics of the bedrock, fractures, systems, precipitation, regional hydrogeology, vegetation, wildfires, and steepness of hillslopes are all contributing factors in landslide initiation and development.

You can also learn more by reading the full research report linked here.

Second season begins for repairs in Wallace

Completed sidewalk in Wallace

One month of repairs to the historical guardrail along Front Street and the stone wall that channelizes the South Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River in Wallace will begin Monday, July 12. Crews are expected to work Monday through Thursday and will detour westbound traffic around the construction on Front Street. Eastbound traffic on Front Street and access to the interstate will not be affected.

Work this year will focus on adding the historical metal railing to the top of the concrete guardrail, extending more of the sidewalk and finishing the wall, which must be done by hand when the water table is low. Crews will build scaffolding over the river to collect debris and use as a work platform. The temporary pavement on Front Street will be replaced with permanent pavement as well.

Construction from July to November of 2020 successfully removed the old wall and added concrete guardrail and sidewalk.

Idaho Transportation Department now taking comments for all upcoming projects

Cars cross Lake Pend Oreille on the Long Bridge

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is asking for input on the just-released draft Idaho Transportation Investment Program (ITIP). The 2022-2028 ITIP is a seven-year master plan of the state’s transportation improvement projects. Everyone is encouraged to participate starting in July.

Projects can range from large-scale interstate improvements to smaller projects like the installation of a new guardrail. In all, the draft ITIP includes projects in all 44 counties and all modes of transportation. Projects were selected based on technical data, as well as input from local officials and residents.

A complete breakdown of the draft plan can be found at itd.idaho.gov/funding, as well as an interactive map that allows users to learn about projects by narrowing it down to specific categories and locations.

A few of the major projects throughout Idaho are:

  • Bridge replacement and adding a travel lane on west bound I-86 in Pocatello.
  • Interchange improvements to the I-15 Exit 113 interchange in Idaho Falls including constructing roundabouts.
  • Full road reconstruction on ID-33 from the US-20/ID-33 interchange to Newdale.
  • Replacement of the structure at the I-84/ID-50 Junction (Exit 182).
  • Replacement of Yankee Fork Bridge on ID-75 in Custer County.
  • Widening ID-44 from Star Road to Linder Road.
  • Extending ID-16 from US-20/26 to I-84.
  • Redesign of the interchange at I-90 and ID-41, with construction planned to start in 2023.
  • Study to begin this fall to examine potential expansion of US-95 to four lanes from Moscow to north of the Mineral Mountain Rest Area.

Comments will be taken from July 1-31 and can be e-mailed to ITDcommunication@itd.idaho.gov or mailed to:

ITIP – Comments
Attn: Office of Communication
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID  83707

Paper copies of the ITIP will be provided upon request by contacting the Idaho Transportation Department (208) 334-8119.

All comments will be reviewed, incorporated into the ITIP where appropriate, and responses will be sent in September once the comment period has ended.

After approval by the Idaho Transportation Board in September, the ITIP will then be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency in October.

 

 

Construction funding identified for widening of the St. Maries Dike

Narrow shoulders on ID-3

The Idaho Transportation Board has identified $18 million for widening of approximately three miles of Idaho Highway 3 north of St. Maries, with construction to start next fall.

Previously the board had approved $1.5 million for design, which began in April of 2020. Funding for construction comes from money that the department had held back last spring in anticipation of declining gas tax revenue during stay-at-home orders.

“Even with all the changes in 2020, we did not see a big drop in gas tax revenue, which is our primary source of funding,” Engineering Manager Marvin Fenn said. “Now we can use that money we held back to make our highways safer, as is the case with this widening project.”

Plans call for the highway to be widened by 11 feet to the east, making room for 11-foot travel lanes and 3-foot shoulders. To get this extra width, a lightweight, specialized product known as geofoam will be used.

Traditionally, highways are expanded by importing embankment material and building the base outwards, but ID-3 was built on soft soils. Extra weight would collapse the soft soils and cause settlement problems for the highway, and expanding outwards would affect nearby wetlands. The geofoam will allow expansion without adding weight or requiring land to be bought.

“Years ago we had tried to widen a longer section of the highway, but we couldn’t find a way to do it,” Fenn said.

Design plans are nearly complete. Benewah County Road and Bridge is in the process of preparing Goosehaven Road to serve as a detour during construction, which is expected to take several months next year.

“Although we’d like to see the project built this year, this extra time will allow for better bid prices, and we can start construction when the water table is at its lowest,” Fenn said. “The detour will also be ready, and the contractor will have more time to plan staging and get a head start on ordering specialized materials.”

Preliminary work this fall will relocate utilities and remove trees and vegetation.

Learn more at itdprojects.org/stmariesdike.

ITD’s Freight Program seeks representatives to help shape freight’s future

Help shape Idaho’s freight future! The Idaho Transportation Department is seeking representatives to serve on the Freight Advisory Committee. The group is made of six members, one representing each of ITD’s administrative districts.

  • The individual selected for District 1 will represent Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai, and Shoshone counties
  • The individual selected for District 2 will represent Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis, and Nez Perce counties
  • The individual selected for District 3 will represent Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington, and Valley counties
  • The individual selected for District 4 will Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Twin Falls counties
  • The individual selected for District 5 will represent Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, and Power counties
  • The individual selected for District 6 will represent Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Teton, and Madison counties

The Freight Advisory Committee (FAC) was created to advise ITD on issues related to freight transportation in Idaho. FAC members gather and speak on behalf of the following industries:

  • Rail, Highway/Trucking
  • Aeronautics
  • Port/Barge
  • Agriculture
  • Natural Resource
  • Manufacturing/Retail
  • Carrier/Shipping
  • Freight Logistics/Warehousing

Applications for FAC representatives in each of the six districts will be accepted June 21 – July 21, 2021. A 15-day public comment period on the candidates will then follow. Find the application form and instructions at itd.idaho.gov/freight under the Freight Program and Get Involved tabs, or also linked here.

For more information about FAC or the application, contact ITD Freight Program Manager Scott Luekenga at (208) 334-8057 or by email at scott.luekenga@itd.idaho.gov

Idaho Transportation Board puts new money to work across Idaho

LEWISTON – The Idaho Transportation Board approved dozens of new road projects across every corner of the state Wednesday afternoon (May 19) during its regular monthly meeting in Lewiston. The projects include $350 million in construction work that is expected to begin sometime next year.

Many of the projects are part of Idaho Governor Brad Little’s “Building Idaho’s Future” transportation funding solution.

“Idaho is the fastest growing state in the nation. To keep up with the demands of a fast-growing state, our historic transportation funding solution helps save Idahoans’ time, keeps us safe on our roads, and makes our state’s economy even stronger,” Governor Little said. “I appreciate the Idaho Transportation Board for acting quickly to put these new funds to work.”

Projects approved today that are ready now include $170 million of Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation (TECM) funds to expand Idaho State Highway 16 from its current location at US-20/26 (Chinden Blvd.) to Interstate 84. The board also dedicated $37 million of TECM funds to expand US-20/26 to four lanes from Middleton Road to I-84. Both projects should be under construction next year and will likely be bonded.

In addition, the board approved about $140 million in projects with one-time funds from the Building Idaho’s Future program, along with federal and state COVID Relief funds. This statewide group of projects is focused on critical maintenance and safety needs for highways and bridges from Ashton in eastern Idaho, to the Magic Valley and north to Wallace.

Check this link to see the full list of projects approved across the state.

“We want to thank the Idaho Legislature and Governor for one of the most significant transportation investments in state history,” said Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Bill Moad. “Our goal as a board is to be great stewards of this funding. We will work with the department to pick the projects across Idaho that will have the greatest return on investment in improving safety, increasing mobility and addressing Idaho’s rapid growth.”

In addition to $350 million in construction that will begin next year, the board also approved nearly $170 million for project development. This includes environmental planning, design and right-of-way acquisition.

“Project development is very important. The Board wants the department to have projects ready for the Building Idaho’s Future program and to be constantly advancing additional work for any future federal or state funding opportunities,” said Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Bill Moad. “It is our goal to put the money to work as soon as it becomes available.”

The TECM fund was increased to $80 million through House Bill 362 signed by Governor Little earlier this month. The Idaho Transportation Department will leverage those ongoing funds into a Building Idaho’s Future bonding program that could yield as much as $1.6 billion. The goal is to have major safety and expansion corridors financed over the next six to eight years with the bond proceeds.

ITD staff will present potential projects and corridors to include in the bonding program to the Idaho Transportation Board by the end of this year.

New railroad overpass on ID-41 opens tomorrow

Railroad overpass for northbound traffic on ID-41 nearly complete

The first of two bridges over the railroad on Idaho Highway 41 north of Hayden Avenue will open tomorrow. Work on the overpass began in June of 2020 and completing this structure is a major milestone in the effort to expand the highway to four lanes between Post Falls and Rathdrum.

With the bridge ready for use, traffic on ID-41 will shift from the existing roadway to the newly paved lanes between Prairie Avenue and Wyoming Avenue.

“Opening this first bridge is critical to moving on to the next phase of the project,” ITD Project Manager Mason Palmer said. “Now we can start building the second bridge and continue upgrading intersections.”

Immediately following the opening of the bridge, the closure of Hayden Avenue east of ID-41 will be lifted, but west of ID-41 the road will close until early August. Lancaster Road east of ID-41 will also close for that same timeframe. Local detours will be posted.

Intersections throughout the corridor will be partially closed during construction to allow crews to add capacity, update signals or install turning restrictions. Drivers are encouraged to sign up for email updates at itdprojects.org/id41corridor.

View specific plans at each intersection.

Paving operations have not yet begun for the southern half of the project, which kicked off earlier this year. Crews are currently in the process of relocating utilities and building the base of the future roadway.

“Generally speaking, we will build a new set of lanes to the east, switch traffic over to those lanes, and then rebuild the existing roadway,” Palmer said. “What drivers have historically traveled on will become two southbound lanes, and the two new lanes will carry northbound traffic.”

Traffic conditions and progress will vary throughout the corridor, but all work is scheduled to be complete in the fall of 2022. Improvements total $51.5 million, with another $5.7 million contributed by the cities of Post Falls and Rathdrum.

 

“Trucker Matt” helps keep I-90 clean as spring reveals trash covered by winter snows

A long-haul driver who goes by the name “Trucker Matt” has taken it upon himself to clean a stretch of Interstate 90 when his travels take him daily on the heavily traveled north Idaho freeway linking Idaho to Montana and Washington State.

Matthew Culver hauls cedar bark from Naples, Idaho to Superior, Montana. He has been driving truck since retiring from the Marine Corps in 1999. He has owned his own truck, and his own company, since 2007.

Culver has driven the route daily, year-round, for about 4.5 years, and officially signed on with ITD’s Adopt-A-Highway litter pickup program about two years ago. Since then he has picked up about 90 bags of litter from the stretch of freeway.

“I not only clean up Fourth of July Summit, but all over on the route in any wide spot where a truck can safely park,” Culver said. “Fourth of July Pass is my primary objective since it seems to get the most trash, but I also clean up the Idaho Port of Entry roadside temporary inspection location in East Hope at Denton Slough and occasionally Lookout Pass Summit.” He said he and his wife will often bring back a bag of trash from wherever their hiking and fishing adventures take them.

“Wherever Matt goes and whatever he does, he continually looks for ways to make a positive difference,” D1 Volunteer Services Coordinator Robin Karsann said.

Culver’s time in the military made him appreciate cleanliness.

“Having served 25 years in the Marine Corps, I never like seeing an unsightly area with trash strew about everywhere. Besides, Idaho and Montana are just too beautiful to see trash along the road.”

He said it is very rewarding when he sees a clean stretch of highway where litter once was.

“I get dejected when I see trash on the roadside, but when I take action, I feel that I’ve made a positive difference in keeping roads clean and pleasing to the eye.”

Culver said he would love to see more people get involved in keeping our roads clear of debris.

“You can make it a spring and fall event for your business or family. It’s great advertisement for your business and you can honor and memorialize a lost loved one or veteran.”

“I urge others to get involved by contacting your local Idaho DOT office and sign up. The Idaho Transportation Department will provide trash bags and safety vests. Not only have I benefited in getting exercise by picking up trash, and experienced the rewarding feeling of making a difference, I have also collected thousands of dollars in excellent-condition tire chains, bungee cords, hand tools, and more all left abandoned by truckers. It’s a win-win-win situation.”

Culver Enterprises is one of the 242 organizations in District 1 that participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program. Some have made it a long-term commitment.

“What amazes me about being a Volunteer Services Coordinator for District 1 is to see the faithfulness and longevity of participation our volunteers show year after year,” said Karsann. “Several groups have been participants for more than 20 years.”

Here’s the list of Adopt-a-Highway coordinators around the state:

District 1

Robin Karsann

600 W. Prairie Dr.

Coeur d’Alene  83815-8764

Phone: 208 772-1200

Counties: Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone

 

District 2

Shane Niemela

PO Box 837

Lewiston, ID  83501-0837

Phone: 208 799-4239

Counties: Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce

 

District 3

Judi Conner

PO Box 7129

Boise, ID  83707-1129

Phone: 208 334-8094

Counties: Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington

 

District 4

Wendy Robinson

126 S. Date Street

Shoshone, ID  83352

Phone: 208 886-7831

Counties: Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls.

 

District 5

Sharon Short

PO Box 4700

Pocatello, ID  83205-4700

Phone: 208 239-3300

Counties: Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida and Power

 

District 6

Erika Turner

PO Box 97

Rigby, ID 83442-0097

Phone: 208 745-5612

Counties: Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Fremont, Custer, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Teton

Changes to US-95 south of Sandpoint planned for 2021 and 2022

Cars cross Lake Pend Oreille on the Long Bridge

The Idaho Transportation Department is in the process of designing improvements to US-95 between Sagle and Sandpoint, with the first phase planned for construction this summer.

“This is one of the true concerns of Bonner County,” said Steve Klatt, the director for the Bonner County Road and Bridge Department. “It’s been a tremendously collaborative effort with Senator Jim Woodward and the Idaho Transportation Department, and I’m impressed at the traction we’re seeing on this project.”

Changes this year include adding acceleration lanes for drivers turning onto US-95 to head north or south. The existing center turn lane on US-95 will transition to a dedicated turn lane for northbound traffic accessing Lakeshore Drive, and dedicated lanes for different turning movements from Lakeshore Drive will be established.

Download a diagram of lane configurations at Lakeshore Drive.

“For years we’ve heard from local officials and drivers that they want that intersection made safer,” ITD Program Manager Bill Roberson said. “We’ve looked at the crash data and delay issues when talking with local representatives to identify a short-term solution.”

The second phase, scheduled for 2022, calls for the construction of a median U-turn for left-turning traffic from Lakeshore Drive. The department is also considering a median U-turn for left-turning traffic from Bottle Bay Road.

Download a diagram of the median U-turns.

“This mimics what we’re told a lot of drivers are already doing,” Roberson said.

While drivers would still have the option to turn left from Lakeshore Drive to head into town, with the median U-turn they could also turn right, and once further away from the congestion at end of the Long Bridge, use a new lane to make a U-turn near Bottle Bay and rejoin traffic.

These median turns would be similar to those on US-95 in Ponderay.

“Our goal is to reduce delays for drivers trying to turn on to the highway while also improving safety for drivers already on it,” Roberson said.

The last element to improve safety in the corridor, also planned for 2022, is a signal at Sagle Road. All modifications are estimated to cost $8 million to construct.

“We are still finalizing the details,” Roberson said. “We are trying to avoid restricting left turns from Lakeshore Drive onto US-95, but that could happen in the future. The good news is drivers will still be able to head north by using the median U-turn to the south.”

Breakup limits put in place for spring conditions

Congestion on ID-53 during spring breakup

As highways in Idaho start to warm up this spring, they become more susceptible to damage from heavy traffic, prompting state and local transportation agencies to enforce seasonal restrictions. ITD has currently restricted several routes in North and East Idaho.

VIDEO: Congestion and repairs as a result of spring breakup.

Restrictions on state highways are noted on 511 and are put up days in advance to prepare drivers for congestion on their routes. They apply to trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. On state highways, vehicles of this size are required to reduce their speeds to 30 mph and weigh no more than 14,000 pounds per axle. On U.S. highways, they still must reduce their speed to 30 mph but can weigh more in accordance with legally permitted loads. Spring breakup restrictions are not applied on interstates.

While they can cause significant congestion on highways with a mix of commercial and commuter traffic, restrictions are preventative measures that ultimately save drivers’ time and resources.

In the spring heavy loads can cause rapid deterioration of pavement. As temperatures increase, the frozen base underneath the road thaws and becomes saturated with water, which creates a weaker section below the pavement that can lead to potholes and cracks. Highways can even appear to pump water at this time of year.

Springtime damage may result in months of repairs in the summer, diverting maintenance dollars from being invested into other routes. The damage can also be so severe as to be beyond the scope of normal highway maintenance. Compare this cost to drivers with time spent following a slow truck or waiting for safe opportunities to pass.

Foremen across the state track conditions to know when to enact breakup limits. Restrictions are usually imposed on older highways with deteriorating bases that don’t drain moisture as well.

These seasonal restrictions are only in place as long as necessary and save taxpayer dollars from being spent on damage that could have been prevented.

This spring, practice patience on the road and protect our highways from unnecessary damage.