The Crowded Commute: when will drivers get an extra lane on Interstate 90?

Photo of construction in CDA from earlier this year.

It is the question on drivers’ minds as they continue to navigate through orange barrels and divided lanes on I-90 in CDA: when will there be more than two lanes?

The short answer: not in the immediate future, primarily due to a lack of funds.

Currently, work is progressing to reconstruct and lower the interstate through town, with preparations also underway near the Huetter Port of Entry to accommodate traffic flow and bridge maintenance next spring.

Despite appearances, neither of these projects includes the addition of a third lane.

WHY NOT?

The need is there, but the funding is not.

The latest study estimates that the expansion of I-90 to a divided, six-lane roadway from state line to 15th Street in CDA could require approximately $120 million. That estimate does not include the expansion of bridges—of which there are six—easily elevating the cost another $120 million.

Even though federal funds would spare ITD the majority of bridge replacement costs and all but 7 percent of pavement costs, that is still a significant chunk of the local  ITD district’s budget, which is set at $29 million for next year and designated for pavement work only.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution: temporary shoulders and crossovers under construction have not been built to withstand prolonged truck traffic, nor have they been approved by the interstate’s owner, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), meaning they can’t stay.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

To add a third lane to the interstate, an environmental document would have to be prepared by ITD and the public before being approved by FHWA. Environmental documents, because they can serve as the baseline for planning and development in an area for decades, require significant data and outreach to complete. Depending on the impacts, submitting an environmental document to FHWA could take as many as three years.

Ideally expansion would also be coordinated with our neighbors at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to ensure drivers could expect consistent traffic conditions through the larger corridor. At this time, WSDOT officials plan to increase efficiency on the interstate with ramp meters downtown and eventually lane and speed control all the way to the border, since there are not adequate resources or priority within existing funding to expand the route.

As the area grows, traffic demands on the entire state highway system will increase, forcing projects to compete with each other for funding. Projects currently programmed for the next seven years include the expansion of Idaho Highway 41 between Post Falls and Rathdrum, Idaho Highway 53 between state line and Rathdrum and portions of US-95 between CDA and Sandpoint.

THE BOTTOM LINE

That doesn’t mean I-90 will stay the same for the next seven years. The department does have projects in the program to maintain overpasses, to reduce rutting and to preserve existing pavement. Larger projects scheduled include the redesign of the I-90/ID-41 interchange, and depending on the success of a submitted grant application, the relocation of the Huetter Port of Entry to the west.

In the meantime, ITD will make adjustments to the corridor where possible and continue to collect the data necessary for eventual expansion, with the next study anticipated to be completed in the coming year.

 

Traffic shift scheduled Saturday night for I-90 through CDA

Drivers who travel through the work zone on Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene are advised to pay extra attention as traffic impacts are scheduled to change Saturday night (Sept. 15), depending on weather conditions.

Once eastbound lanes are completed, traffic will shift from the median to the newly paved lanes. Westbound traffic will then move to the median to allow crews to reconstruct the remaining lanes.

Two lanes will stay open in each direction. Traffic impacts will be similar to those from earlier this summer: through traffic should use the left lane, and drivers who need to exit must use the right lane. Westbound lanes will be divided near the 15th Street on ramp by concrete barrier, after which drivers will not be able to change lanes.

Westbound on- and off-ramps at Fourth Street will be closed for the next month, and the westbound off-ramp at US-95 will be closed next week.

This is the final major traffic shift planned for the project, which will lower the roadway by two feet and eliminate the need for over-height trucks to be detoured around bridges on the interstate.

Work on the interstate through town began in 2017. Last year, the interstate from Sherman Avenue to Ninth Street was completed, and by the end of October crews will finish reconstructing the interstate from Ninth Street to Northwest Boulevard.

Ramps at Northwest Boulevard in CDA scheduled for closures next week

Maintenance crews will resurface Northwest Boulevard on either side of the bridge over Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene next week.

Work is scheduled to take place from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Sept. 10 and 11.

The north side of the bridge will be resurfaced the first night, during which the westbound on- and off-ramps will be closed. The south side of the bridge will be resurfaced next, and the eastbound on- and off-ramps will be closed then.

Detours will be posted both nights.

Nighttime lane closures on I-90 begin next week

Next week travelers can expect nighttime lane closures on Interstate 90 near the Huetter rest area west of Coeur d’Alene.

Temporary lanes will be built in the median this fall to maintain traffic flow during bridge maintenance scheduled for next spring.

Work is expected to take place overnight Monday through Friday between 7:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. until mid-October.

As part of this project, crews will also preserve surfaces of bridges in Post Falls this fall that pass over the interstate. Bridges include those at Idaho Street, McGuire Road, Seltice Way and Pointe Parkway. Sealing the surface of each bridge is expected to take approximately one week, and during that time, at least one lane of traffic will remain open.

For updates on the bridges, check with Post Falls Assistant City Engineer Rob Paulus at (208) 457-3331. Other traffic impacts on the state system may be found by visiting 511.

Bridge on ID-3 in St. Maries closes next week, requiring detour through town

The Idaho Transportation Department advises drivers to plan ahead for traffic delays and detours in St. Maries on Idaho Highway 3 as crews advance to the next phase of bridge reconstruction.

Beginning as early as Tuesday, Sept. 4, crews will close the bridge over the railroad and reopen the adjacent bridge over the St. Joe River to one lane in each direction.

Temporary signs will be installed along the detour through town to enhance safety and traffic flow. Closures will continue on Meadowhurst Drive east of its intersection with ID-3 as well as Riverside Avenue where it runs underneath the highway between First Street and Fourth Street.

These traffic changes are part of the ongoing project to upgrade two bridges in St. Maries. This phase of work includes completing the east half of the river bridge deck and reconstructing the railroad bridge.

The railroad bridge is anticipated to be closed through December, and the overall project is scheduled to be complete by spring 2019.

Upon completion, both bridges will include one lane in each direction with a shoulder and sidewalk on each side. Work also includes reconstructing the highway to match the upgraded bridges, replacing guardrail and signs in several locations and improving the adjoining intersections.

Crews are working during daylight hours Monday through Saturday and Sundays as needed. Residents and businesses will continue to experience occasional noise, dust and vibration during that time.

Check 511 for traffic impacts or visit the “Projects” tab at itd.idaho.gov/d1 for more information.

Members of the public are also invited to contact the project team by calling the project hotline at 208-292-8515 or by emailing Gemma Puddy at gpuddy@langdongroupinc.com.

Safety improvements start next week west of Rathdrum on ID-53

Starting Monday, August 27, crews will begin constructing turn lanes at the intersection of Idaho Highway 53 and Chase Road west of Rathdrum.

Work will last up to one month as crews add a right-turn lane and a center-turn lane at the intersection. Crews are expected to be on site during the day from Monday through Friday, with some weekend work allowed. Travelers should expect speed reductions in the area and intermittent single lane closures.

Highway traffic in both directions will be stopped completely only when crews are removing about a dozen trees, which is necessary to construct the new right-turn lane.

For the latest traffic updates, check 511.

Drive well, North Idaho

With Labor Day right around the corner, parents and children are likely counting down the days to the end of summer, but they should consider a different number: 86.

That’s at least how many people have died on Idaho routes so far during what is called the 100 Deadliest Days, or the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day when fatalities increase statewide ever year. Of those 86 fatalities, 10 were in the northern five counties.

Law enforcement provides safety data like this to the Idaho Transportation Department to help monitor highway conditions and plan for changes when possible. North of the Latah county border, ITD pays special attention to the following high-speed and congested areas: the intersections of Prairie Avenue and US-95, Prairie Avenue and ID-53, Prairie Avenue and ID-41, Hauser Lake Road and ID-53, and Ramsey Road and ID-53.

From adding turn lanes and to constructing new interchanges, ITD has plans to address safety concerns at these locations but wants drivers to exercise awareness and caution for the rest of this summer.

Engineers can design safer highways, and officers can patrol them, but what drivers do behind the wheel can affect their safety more than anything else on the road.

Be engaged, and drive well these last two weeks, Idaho.

US-95 construction south of CDA begins Monday

Work to resurface five miles of US-95 between Cougar Creek and Mica Creek is scheduled to begin August 6 and last for two months.

During construction, at least one lane will remain open in each direction, and flaggers will guide traffic at major intersections.

As ITD resurfaces the highway near intersections, travelers can expect brief closures. Emergency access will be maintained.

Crews are expected to work during the day with some possible weekend shifts.

 

Additional improvements to US-95 scheduled to begin this week near Plummer

Safety improvements to US-95 near Plummer will begin this week, with work expected to be completed in October.

Two bridges over Moctileme Creek will be replaced, and US-95 at the intersection of Windfall Pass Road will be realigned.

During the initial phase of construction, two lanes will remain open as crews construct an additional lane to be used as the bridges are demolished and rebuilt, one half at a time.

Once the temporary lane is finished, crews will start removing part of the old bridges, and travelers should expect delays and alternating, one-way traffic through the work zone.

When crews are not on site, the highway will be open to two lanes.

A 2013 study previously identified the Windfall Pass Road area as the site of the most frequent and severe crashes in the northern five counties, and since then, ITD has been designing this project to make it easier for drivers to negotiate the curve and to access the intersecting road.

For the latest traffic impacts, check 511.

Open house July 31 in Athol to share proposed safety improvements to US-95

US95 Granite Loop

The Idaho Transportation Department will share plans to improve safety on US-95 north of Athol at an open house Tuesday, July 31 at the Athol Community Center.

Proposed safety improvements to US-95 near Granite Hill include:

– Construction of continuous frontage roads on both sides of the highway
– Realignment of the Trails End Road intersection
– Possible expansion of the highway to two lanes in both directions

Members of the public may stop by any time between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to learn more and to comment.

Those unable to attend the open house may also comment online between July 31 and August 14 by visiting itd.idaho.gov/d1, finding the “Projects” tab and selecting “US-95: Granite North Improvements.”