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.

New temporary road for Idaho 5 opens

crews build temporary road

Completing a new temporary route east of Plummer and west of St. Maries earlier than expected, the Idaho Transportation Department has given motorists a detour around a section of Idaho State Highway 5 recently decimated by moisture under the road and slides.

The new 500-foot-long route opened in time for the morning commute Wednesday, with temporary signals at each end of the route guiding traffic. A solid concrete guardrail will be placed on the edge to safeguard drivers.

Work on the temporary route began last Thursday. Crews placed a rock base, rolled it to compact the base, and placed a layer of top fill gravel and dirt on top.

To provide a smoother surface for drivers and protect the new temporary route around Idaho 5 between St. Maries and Plummer, Idaho Transportation Department crews will pave the new 500-foot-long temporary route Friday night (March 31) with about 2.5 inches of asphalt.

The paving will start at 8 p.m. Friday and finish by 3 a.m. Saturday. This timeframe as chosen because it will impact the fewest travelers, as the lowest traffic volumes are overnight.

The temporary route will be completely closed during this paving. Detour routes are Idaho 6 to the south, connecting with U.S. 95, or Idaho 3 to the north, connecting to Interstate 90.

The temporary route will remain in place as Idaho 5 is rebuilt over the next several months. The larger reconstruction will likely last through mid-summer, but will not begin until geologists make a determination on the stability of the road area.

Active slides undercutting Idaho State Highway 5 near St. Maries

Road breakup on ID 5

Shifting ground from a very wet spring has caused sections of State Highway 5 to heave and collapse.

ITD has completely shut down ID 5 between Parkside Rd. and Conklin Park Rd. A mud slide beneath the road has caused it to crack and sink. In some areas, the road is gone entirely. At this point in time, engineers fear the section of road may be a total loss.

Crews will start to do exploratory drilling Friday and into the weekend. This will help discover the extent of the slide and what repairs may be needed once shifting stops.

ITD first noticed significant damage last Monday. Initially, small 3-inch wide cracks formed on the road surface. By Tuesday those cracks were 8 inches wide and more than six feet deep. Since then the road has steadily deteriorated and continues to shift.

Motorists are advised to detour around the dangerous area. ID 3 and ID 6 are the best options. Local traffic has been using the state park road, but that is now restricted due to unstable ground. Local authorities are asking those roads be used only for local emergency traffic.

North Idaho drivers seeing blue as ITD crews use new road salt

As winter weather continues in the region, drivers in north Idaho are now seeing blue as ITD maintenance crews begin using a new blue salt product. The new salt may represent the next stage in the department’s efforts to improve road-clearing efforts and resulting public safety.

According to the manufacturer, Saltworx, the blue salt is less corrosive than traditional salt, and less of the new blue salt is needed to achieve the same results that traditional salt can provide, so it is potentially a cost savings as well.

“We are just experimenting with it at this stage, but it has the potential to save money, some wear-and-tear on vehicles, and most importantly, be more effective on the roads,” said ITD’s north Idaho management assistant, Mike Lenz.

The new blue salt will be used on 1,500 miles of area roads across the region.