Comment today on updated plans for the Interstate 90 and Idaho Highway 41 interchange

Aerial photo of the I-90 ID-41 interchange in 2020

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) invites community input on updated design and construction plans for the Interstate 90 and Idaho Highway 41 interchange via an online meeting at itdprojects.org/i90idaho-41 from today (May 28) to June 18.

“Our two previous open houses drew in 300 people,” ITD Project Manager Shannon Stein said. “We’d like to see that same level of engagement even though it’s online.”

The online meeting features narrated presentations on the interchange project, which includes the nearby intersection at Mullan Avenue. More details on construction, access for those who walk or bike and even an animated video are also available on the site.

“All of the information is online, but we’d like to remind everyone that we are still available via other channels to discuss these changes as well,” Stein said. “This is likely the last time people will have a chance to comment before we go to construction in 2023.”

Comments may be submitted via the website, calling (855) 785-2499, emailing shannon.stein@itd.idaho.gov or sending mail to 600 West Prairie Avenue, CDA, ID 83814 at the attention of Shannon Stein.

Those who do not have the ability to engage online should use the contact information above, and a member of the project team will provide other resources to participate.

A similar online meeting is being held for Idaho Highway 53 near Rathdrum and Hauser until June 8, with information available at itdprojects.org/id53corridor.

With drivers back on the road, ITD kicks off another work zone awareness week

Crew removing brush on US-2 as an example of a short duration operation

National Work Zone Awareness Week is traditionally held in April, but with more drivers back on highways, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is again spotlighting work zone safety.

ITD asks media partners and drivers to tune in each day this week (May 18 – 23) to the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages to see different types of work zones.

Drivers are familiar with larger road construction projects, which are typically well-marked and have better visibility, but they may not be as familiar with short-duration operations.

These can pop up anywhere, at any time. Whether it is a highway worker stopping to remove a shredded tire or animal carcass from the road, or performing maintenance work like repairing guardrail right next to the travel lanes, these jobs generally put workers closer to the road, and closer to danger. There is less time for the worker or the driver to take evasive action when encountering short-duration operations.

Just last year, an ITD operator was killed outside Arco in a short-duration operation, reminding us all of the importance of being safe and vigilant in work zones across the state.

During this week, ITD also remembers the sacrifices of other workers lost over the years while on the job – many of them were killed in work zones. Since this picture was taken, there have been two more markers added to the Fallen Workers Memorial, bringing the total to 40 workers since 1960.

“Work zones can be the most hazardous areas on our state highway system,” ITD Safety Manager Randall Danner said. “We urge drivers to use extreme caution when passing through these areas so they can arrive at their destination safely and our workers can return home to their loved ones.”

In addition to short-duration maintenance operations, ITD has dozens of projects planned this year with information on itdprojects.org. Each project is different in terms of traffic revisions and reduced speed limits. Please check 511.idaho.gov for traveler information.

Comment online today for proposed changes to Idaho Highway 53

Photo of tire marks near the Hauser Lake Road and ID-53 intersection

The Idaho Transportation Department invites community input on proposed changes to Idaho Highway 53 near Rathdrum and Hauser via an online meeting at itdprojects.org/id53corridor from today (May 18) to June 8.

“Normally we would host an open house and engage with stakeholders in person,” said Steven Bakker, a project manager for one of several projects in that area. “We can’t do that right now, but with a little more effort, we hope to still have a constructive dialogue.”

The online meeting will feature narrated presentations on four separate projects designed to improve safety from Washington state line to Rathdrum by adding turn lanes and constructing a new interchange at Pleasant View Road. These changes will require more than $40 million in funding through 2027.

“Though we’ve moved much of this discussion online, we want to emphasize that we are still available in many ways to talk about these projects,” Bakker said.

Comments may be submitted via the website, calling (855) 785-2499, emailing id53corridor@itd.idaho.gov or sending mail to 600 West Prairie Avenue, CDA, ID 83814 at the attention of Steven Bakker.

Those who do not have the ability to engage online should use the contact information above, and a member of the project team will provide them with other resources to participate.

Construction starts this Wednesday at Blue Creek Bay to finish bridge repairs

Photo showing traffic crossing the I-90 Blue Creek Bay bridge

April 28, 2020 update: The eastbound bridge, not the westbound bridge, will receive repairs first this season. 

Repairs to the bridges on Interstate 90 over Blue Creek Bay will resume this Wednesday, April 29. The repairs will extend the service life of these structures for another fifty years.

Over the last two summers, extensive work to protect the underwater support structures was completed, and temporary joints to allow the bridges to expand and contract with the weather were installed. This season the contractor will finish the driving surface of the 1,400-foot-long bridges. Repairs are expected to be underway until August.

Work will start on the westbound bridge. Traffic will be shifted to the eastbound bridge and reduced to one lane in each direction. Once the westbound bridge is finished, it will carry traffic so crews can continue work on the eastbound bridge.

Another project in the next five years is now planned to replace the temporary joints with permanent ones.

“We understand that this project has affected drivers as they head to the national forest or to the lake on their summer weekends,” Resident Engineer Ryan Hawkins said. “Although we originally planned to install joints that would last another fifty years, we decided to postpone that part of the project to shorten the construction season and reduce our impact to drivers.”

The follow-up project will be scheduled once design is complete and funding has been identified.

Approximately 3.5 miles of I-90 from the bridges to the bottom of Fourth of July Pass, including some ramps at the junction with Idaho Highway 97, will be resurfaced during the month of June and create a longer work zone. For information on other construction projects, visit itdprojects.org.

Truck ramp on US-95 north of Bonners Ferry to close next week

Photo of reconstructed US-95 in Bonners Ferry

The emergency ramp for trucks on US-95 just north of Bonners Ferry will be closed for approximately three days starting Tuesday, April 28.

One of the southbound lanes will also be closed to give crews room to work as they upgrade the signage at the ramp. An additional sign will be placed on the overhead structure to indicate the appropriate lane for through traffic. Originally this message was displayed on the bridge over the Kootenai River but was removed after being damaged in a June 2018 crash.

Drivers can also expect to see crews spread out between Madison Street and Alderson Lane this spring as they make the final touches to highway improvements made in 2018 and 2019, beginning with concrete repair work on Monday, April 27.

Crews will finish landscaping efforts that were postponed due to snowfall last year, as well as redo portions of sidewalks and correct a drainage issue near Ford Street.

One lane in each direction will be maintained for the next two months while work is underway, with the work zone shifting to specific locations as needed within the project limits.

Over the last two years crews have built a consistent, three-lane section through town with sidewalks on both sides. In 2023 and 2024, drivers will see that design extended from Alderson Lane to Labrosse Hill Street.

To learn more, visit itdprojects.org/us95bonnersferry.

State’s old Highway Advisory Radio system being decommissioned

The Idaho State Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) communication system is being decommissioned. The use of the old system was suspended on April 1. ITD is evaluating whether existing HAR equipment and infrastructure can be repurposed to meet other needs.

There are 25 HAR sites and 58 beacons located around the state, broadcasting emergency information on the am radio frequency. However, the equipment had reached the end of its useful life, and no longer met the technology security requirements of the state.

In addition, surveys showed that the HAR system, although once popular, was now ranked well behind other more viable sources for information distribution, such as 511 or roadside electronic message boards.

 

Food trucks to serve truck drivers at Idaho rest areas

Customers line up six feet apart at a food truck stationed on I-84 at Blacks Creek

An emergency exemption by the Idaho Transportation Department will allow permitted food trucks to set up at rest areas and offer hot meals to truck drivers and other travelers.

“We heard truck drivers were having difficulties finding hot meals with the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses during the stay-at-home order,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s Mobility Services Engineer. “Our goal is to support them as best as we can during this pandemic, especially long-haul drivers delivering goods across the U.S.”

ITD worked with the Idaho Trucking Association to identify opportune times for vendors to stage at rest areas as well as the Southern Idaho Food Truck Association to solicit appropriate vendors.

Food trucks will be permitted at rest areas around the state, with up to two vendors allowed at each site. They will not be permitted at rest areas that already offer these services and are under public-private management. Learn more about the temporary program.

“These temporary services are targeted at truck drivers and other essential travelers,” Fernandez said. “We don’t want to attract crowds and will advise permitted vendors to follow healthcare guidelines.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Highway Administration announced it would temporarily relax enforcement of rules that prohibit commercial activity on state-owned, federally-supported right of way like rest areas.

Once the stay-at-home order is lifted in Idaho and restrictions on nonessential businesses are eased, food trucks will no longer be permitted at rest areas.

One hundred homemade masks donated to ITD

A lab tech in the CDA office tests concrete with a mask donated by the Johnson family in Sagle

As an essential agency, employees of the Idaho Transportation Department continue to provide services during the stay-at-home order.

Some work—from earthquake response to bridge replacements—cannot wait for better and safer times. Construction is underway, and operations crews have continued to plow snow, clean up rock fall and provide traffic control at crash scenes over the last few weeks.

Just last week, one family in North Idaho donated 100 homemade masks to ITD workers after an employee responded to a Facebook post that offered assistance.

“We are grateful for everyone who’s putting themselves on the line,” said Trina Johnson, the matriarch of the family who runs a farm known as Maker’s Long Acres in Sagle.

The masks will be available to maintenance workers, mechanics, signal technicians, construction inspectors, lab techs and administrative assistants throughout the five northern counties and will help them follow safety guidelines as they stay at work.

“It’s people like the Johnsons who inspire us to do our best while serving the public, especially in these unusual times,” North Idaho District Engineer Damon Allen said. “We thank them again for their kindness and contribution to our public mission.”

ITD increases frequency of cleaning at major rest areas

Rest areas will stay open to support the delivery of goods and services through Idaho and the nation, with key rest areas to be cleaned more frequently to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“Rest areas provide an essential service as a respite for truckers,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s mobility services engineer. “While we’re seeing fewer passenger vehicles on the highway, freight services are in full tilt. We have heard from our partners in the trucking industry that they need these areas open, and we are working to meet that need.”

Rest areas at Midvale Hill on US-95 south of Midvale, Blacks Creek on I-84 east of Boise and Huetter on I-90 west of Coeur d’Alene will be cleaned every two hours with a focus on commonly touched surfaces like door handles.

All rest areas are cleaned two times a day, but due to high usage at these locations they will be cleaned more often. ITD is working with vendors responsible for cleaning rest areas to make sure they have the resources they need.

The rest area on US-12 at Lolo Pass on the Idaho-Montana border, which is jointly managed with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), is currently closed.

“Out of an abundance of caution for our employees and the public, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests has made the decision to close the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, including the restrooms, until further notice,” said Jennifer Becar, public affairs specialist with the USFS. “This decision was made in order to best protect the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, and the public, and is consistent with the forest’s shift to only offering virtual services at offices and other facilities at this time.”

For more information on other USFS closures, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater.

Another rest area on eastbound I-84 on the Idaho-Oregon border near Fruitland continues to be closed due to issues with the septic system.

The department is also exploring options to allow food trucks to offer services at remote rest areas to support truck drivers as they continue to deliver goods across the United States.

To check the status of specific rest areas, visit 511.idaho.gov or download the app.

Adopt a Highway program suspended during COVID-19 pandemic

ITD truck loaded with bags of trash from an Adopt a Highway pickup

The Idaho Transportation Department has suspended the Adopt a Highway and other volunteer programs to focus on essential services and promote community safety.

Under the program, volunteers adopt a section of highway for two years at a time and commit to removing litter twice a year. These sections are marked by special white and blue signs on the highway.

The department provides volunteers with safety vests, trash bags and road signs but decided to temporarily suspend the program in late March. There were concerns about encouraging large groups to gather and the ability to clean shared items between uses.

Groups are being notified via email and mail of the suspension. Organizations will not lose their adopted sections if they do not meet the required number of pickups this year.

“We appreciate the willingness of our fellow Idahoans to keep our state beautiful by picking up trash but unfortunately have to temporarily halt the program,” said Judi Conner, the volunteer services coordinator. “For the time being, drivers should expect to see more trash as ITD and our volunteers follow guidance to keep our communities safe.”

Other volunteer programs that allow nonprofit organizations to offer free refreshments at rest areas or offer educational presentations to schools have also been put on pause.

ITD aims to support volunteer services again once cleaning supplies are readily available and guidance from health experts changes.

More information about volunteer programs and contact information for program coordinators may be found at itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce.