I-90 no longer closed in Post Falls

511 screenshot

Dec. 29 at 3:30 p.m.

I-90 is back open.

Dec. 29 at 10 a.m.

Westbound I-90 is closed at milepost 4 west of the Spokane Street Interchange due to an incident. The Idaho Transportation Department is setting up a detour to route drivers around the incident via State Highway 41 and State Highway 53.

The detour is expected to be in place for a significant amount of time.

Drivers are advised to seek alternate routes and to check 511.idaho.gov for updates.

Diesel leaking from dozer at the bottom of Lake Coeur d’Alene

Booms placed on Lake Coeur d'Alene to capture diesel

During the construction of I-90, two pieces of equipment fell into Lake CDA near Higgens Point and were unable to be recovered.

Contractor Scarsella Brothers, Inc., was placing fill in the lake in May 1990 to provide a base for an interchange at Higgens Point when the ground unexpectedly gave away, dumping a Caterpillar 631 scraper and a D-9 dozer and their operators into the water.

Black and white photograph of slide area
Black and white photograph of slide area

Both operators survived, but the dozer and scraper were barely visible and under about 90 feet of water.

ITD, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and several other agencies considered next steps. The tank of the scraper was able to be drained due to how it landed, but the dozer was inaccessible. State and federal agencies agreed that retrieval methods were too risky—both in terms of risk to personnel and to the stability of the slope underwater—and decided to abandon the equipment.

The proposed interchange was cancelled and replaced with plans for a parking lot.

THE FIRST LEAK

The dozer did not appear to leak product until 2000, when a sheen was noticed and determined to be coming from the dozer.

Booms were put in place to contain and capture the product, and ITD hired an engineering firm, CH2M Hill, to analyze field conditions and recommend options to resolve the current leak and capture future releases.

Seven options were put forth and evaluated for effectiveness, feasibility and cost. Both options to remove either the fuel tank from the dozer or the entire machine were rejected due to danger to personnel, the possibility of triggering a slide or the risk of releasing more product through recovery efforts.

ITD and DEQ opted for subsurface containment and collection. In 2001 a specially designed stainless steel hood was built and installed to cover the release site and capture any releases in a canister that could be emptied safely by divers. In 2002 a protective membrane was added to partially cover the dozer and further funnel product into the hood.

Placing the containment system
Placing the containment system

Eventually with no product coming to the surface, the booms were removed.

THE SECOND LEAK

Another leak in 2010 led to the removal of the hood, which needed maintenance, and was replaced with a larger membrane and a simple catchment system to receive and absorb any product.

That system remained in place, with no leaks detected until 2022.

CURRENT EFFORTS

Late December 7, ITD was notified of product coming to the surface in the general vicinity of the relic equipment.

The department placed floating booms to both contain the suspected diesel leak from the dozer and protect the shoreline. Dives determined that the equipment was still buried but that the older, first protective membrane had been disturbed, likely after being caught by a boat anchor. The other membrane looked to be intact.

Disturbed protective membrane
Disturbed protective membrane

ITD is again working with DEQ to pursue a specialized contractor to implement a quick and minimally invasive solution to capture and contain the leak. Once contained future, more permanent projects may be considered and developed.

US-12 east of Kooskia now open under reduced avalanche risk

A sign along US-12 warns drivers of avalanche danger

U.S. Highway 12 east of Kooskia is now open. No avalanches reached the highway during the closure.

The gates at Fish Creek (milepost 126) and Saddle Camp Road (milepost 139) closed Monday afternoon. Avalanche specialists with ITD were on site today to help local maintenance crews assess conditions and check the closure.

“The risk is no longer considerable and nothing came down, so we can safely reopen the highway,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.

Monday, Dec. 26

Several miles of U.S. Highway 12 east of Kooskia will close today at 3 p.m. PT due to considerable avalanche hazard. It is unknown when the road will reopen.

The gates at Fish Creek (milepost 126) and Saddle Camp Road (milepost 139) will close, and ITD crews are working with the U.S. Forest Service to notify any recreationists or drivers within the corridor of the impending closure.

Avalanche specialists with ITD will be on site to help local maintenance crews reassess conditions and reopen the highway. Another release will be sent once a determination to open the road is made.

“The rapid upswing in temperatures in such a short time is concerning,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “We will keep the road closed until it is safe to reopen. In the meantime, this will mean significant delays for holiday travelers between Idaho and Montana.”

The last avalanche to reach the highway was in January. A major storm triggered an avalanche and dropped trees, closing US-12 for roughly four days.

Download a photo of road signage from last year.

Drivers should use 511.idaho.gov to stay updated on road conditions.

Eight snowplows hit this season; ITD calls on drivers to be more cautious

Side-by-side images of a disabled plow on the side of the road.

So far this season across Idaho, drivers have caused eight crashes with snowplows. As more winter weather moves across the state, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) wants to remind drivers how to be safe around snowplows.

1. Never pass a plow on the right. Plows have a smaller wing plow that extends from the right side of the vehicle, which can be hard to see when the snow is flying. Drivers passing on the right and hitting the wing plow is the most common plow-related crash.
2. Give plows room to work and avoid their blind spots.
3. Be patient. The safest place to be is behind the plow.
4. Plows often work in tandem to clear multiple lanes. Never get in between the tandem plows.
5. If you are involved in a crash or stopped on the side of the road for any reason, please remain in your vehicle for your safety and for the safety of our plow operators.

The seventh and eighth crashes happened today in North Idaho, and both involved tandem plows. This morning on Interstate 90 in Coeur d’Alene, a driver got between two plows as they merged onto the highway. The driver then hit the brakes, forcing the second plow off the road to avoid a collision. Then around lunchtime on U.S. Highway 95 south of Athol, a driver passed the first plow on the left and then struck the second while trying to pass on the right.

Both plows are now out of service for the current storm.

“This issue affects everyone, not just the people involved in the crash. Every plow that is hit causes a domino effect making conditions worse,” said Operations Foreman  Shannon Thornton. “There are fewer plows on the road to deal with the snow that is still falling, and our crews have to spend precious time recovering equipment instead of plowing.”

Last winter, there were 11 plow strikes, an increase from years past and a number that ITD does not want to repeat. Please be careful driving and mindful of our plows. Check 511.idaho.gov or the Idaho 511 App for road conditions before traveling. For more winter driving tips, visit itd.idaho.gov/travel.

*For real-time updates on plow strikes, visit ITD’s Facebook or Twitter pages.

The Dos and Don’ts of driving near snow plows

Plow clearing SH-6 near White Pine Campground

Snow has already fallen in the state, so drivers should get ready to drive with plows this winter. Talking about sharing the road with plows is really more of a discussion on what you shouldn’t do.

What shouldn’t you do?

Don’t pass. The road behind a plow is always better than the road in front of a plow. And all the snow, rock and other debris comes out of a plow at a high rate of speed––if you pass and try to drive through all that, the weight of the snow could force your vehicle off the road or break windows.

Of course, that’s assuming you don’t run into the plow while attempting to pass it.

Plows trucks weigh up to 58,000 pounds and sport not one, but two, plows. Everyone is familiar with the plow on the front, which is 12 feet long and takes up a whole lane. People tend to forget about the second, smaller plow positioned on the right side of the truck. It’s called a wing plow.

That’s the one folks run into. When plows are pushing snow, it comes up over the top of the plow and obscures all the lighting and flags. Again, plows weigh up to 14 times the average vehicle, so running into them is going to have an impact.

While not illegal to pass a plow, it’s recommended you never do so on the right side because of the wing plow. Law enforcement can and will cite drivers who act recklessly or carelessly and pass when it isn’t safe.

Operators will often work in pairs, especially on multi-lane roadways like freeways, to get snow pulled from the far left side all the way to the shoulder. Don’t try to pass several plows at once or drive between them.

Plows are large vehicles with blind spots, even when not working in blizzard conditions or pushing snow. Stay out of their blind spots.

If you’re going to pass, it’s important to consider where the snow is going. Our drivers typically push snow to the right, but in some cases, they will push snow into the median.

Sometimes there isn’t room to push snow into the median, or there aren’t enough operators available to tandem plow. You may see a plow working by itself on a freeway, pushing snow into the fast lane on the first lap and then moving it all the way off the roadway on a second pass. There may be enough room to pass safely on the right – but first slow down and observe where the snow coming out of the plow lands on the road before you make your decision.

When in doubt, don’t pass.

What should you do?

  • Drive for conditions. The posted speed limit is set based on ideal conditions, so in winter you’ll have to slow down. It’s on the driver to determine a safe speed.
  • Maintain at least a three-second following distance. On slick roads, you’ll need more time to react and stop if necessary.
  • Move over. Any time emergency vehicles—which include tow trucks—are flashing their lights, you are legally required to slow down and move over into another lane if possible.
  • Leave early. Giving yourself extra time will make it that much easier to make smart decisions.
  • Download 511. No need to guess what your route looks like – download the 511 app or visit 511.idaho.gov to see road conditions and if there are any reported crashes.

As you head out on the road this winter, keep these safety tips in mind so that you and our plow drivers can make it home safely.

Public invited to open houses to comment on preliminary I-90 corridor designs

Traffic congestion I-90 near Huetter

ITD will host two open houses next week in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene to present recommended designs to improve I-90 between the Washington state line and Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene. The ongoing study is funded by the Leading Idaho program.

Each open house will present identical information and designs.

Post Falls

  • Tuesday, Nov. 1
  • 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Red Lion Hotel Templin’s on the River at 414 E 1st Ave

Coeur d’Alene

  • Wednesday, Nov. 2
  • 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn at 506 West Appleway Ave

For those not able to attend either open house, an online option will share the same information and will be available on Nov. 1 at itdprojects.org/i90corridor.

“Since the first stretch of I-90 was built in Kootenai County in 1960, ITD has made some upgrades, but the number of lanes has not changed,” said Erika Bowen, ITD Project Manager. “With traffic currently congested in various parts of the corridor and volumes expected to double by 2045, ITD is studying the interstate to identify improvements to modernize the system, reduce crashes and save drivers time.”

Proposed improvements include adding lanes on I-90, modifying access and upgrading interchanges with impacts to local roads in both cities. Areas with proposed improvements include:

  • Spokane Street and Seltice Way Interchanges
  • Northwest Boulevard Interchange
  • US-95 and Fourth Street Interchanges
  • Seventh Street Bridge
  • Sherman Avenue Interchange
Blue and white circular logo for "Leading Idaho" projects sponsored by Governor Little
Blue and white circular logo for “Leading Idaho” projects sponsored by Governor Little

Following the study and public input, the recommended projects will be prioritized and advanced into design and construction as funding becomes available.

The study is funded with Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation (TECM) funds as part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative. The program allows ITD to accelerate project timelines to address rapid growth and build critical infrastructure today that would otherwise take many years to fund and build.

The corridor is one of 13 approved TECM corridors in the state. Funding for the future design and construction phases on this corridor will be determined based on project readiness and funding availability. Preliminary estimates value the improvements needed in this corridor at $1 billion to $1.2 billion, which includes design, right-of-way and construction costs. A previously funded project to redesign the SH-41 interchange at I-90 is currently under construction.

To stay up to date on the I-90 corridor project, visit itdprojects.org/i90corridor and sign up for email updates.

 

SH-3 north of St. Maries reopened with wider, safer shoulders

Fall sunshine on a curve on a widened highway

Earlier today State Highway 3 north of St. Maries reopened with wider, safe shoulders. Traffic had been detoured to Goosehaven Road since work began in April.  

Construction widened the highway 11 feet to the east, making room for 11-foot travel lanes and 3-foot shoulders. Guardrail was also added along the east side.

“The people that drive on this road every day had to drive on a really narrow road with no shoulders,” said Phil Lampert, Benewah County Commissioner. “This project makes it safer for everyone in the community and those who visit.”

Projects previously proposed to widen the highway had stalled due to environmental challenges and funding restraints.

“When we sat down with county commissioners three years ago, we heard that the desire for this project had only grown over the years,” said Bill Moad, the Idaho Transportation Board Chair. “After that meeting, we decided to use some of our own state funding to get design started.”

With new funding allocated by the board, design began in April 2020. Typically projects are developed through a seven-year process, but with local stakeholders willing to provide a detour for highway traffic, the project was expedited.

“That was a game changer,” said Jim Thompson, the board member for North Idaho. “There was no way to make these changes and accommodate traffic. Offering a detour showed how invested they were in the project, so we prioritized it.”

The three-mile section of highway cuts through wetlands, complicating any expansion effort. Traditionally, highways are expanded by importing embankment material and building the base outwards, but SH-3 was built on soft soils. Extra weight would collapse the soft soils and cause settlement problems for the highway; expanding outwards would also affect nearby wetlands that would trigger mitigation processes with other agencies. To get the safety improvements built sooner, the team wanted to find a way to avoid enlarging the highway past state property.

“We looked at a few options and using geofoam for the fill inside a wall system gave us an economical, lightweight solution,” said Erica Aamodt, ITD project manager for construction. “Since it can be stacked in blocks on top of each other, the foam would allow for a wider roadway without having to go outside of state-owned land.”

While geofoam has been used for other ITD projects—namely for the Topaz Bridge on U.S. Highway 30 near McCammon—this project uses more of it and over a curving length of three miles.  The project was bid for $12.7 million, and work began in April, with contractor Knife River planning to build the project in one season—rather than two—thanks to the availability of a detour.

“Partnership is what ultimately made this project happen,” Aamodt said. “We knew this project would be tough to deliver and inconvenient for drivers and residents with the detour, but we all came together because we knew we could get it done in one season and it’d be worth it.”

Jack Buell, owner of Buell Trucking and a former county commissioner, has long advocated for the project and remembers taking Governor John Evans for a ride on the highway to convince him it needed to be widened.

“The best part is that the State of Idaho decided to fix it, and they fixed it,” Buell said.

Paving begins next week in Bonners Ferry

Milled surface of US-95 about to be paved

Over the next two weeks, US-95 will be paved in Bonners Ferry and the first season of the construction project will be substantially complete between Alderson Lane and Eisenhower Street.

Daytime paving will happen Monday – Thursday (Sept. 12-15), with work focused primarily on the northbound lane as well as some paving on the southbound lane. Access to businesses will be temporarily blocked while paving happens near driveways. The construction team will try to minimize impacts as much as possible. Friday night (Sept. 16) crews will finish paving the center lane. Once paving is complete, workers will adjust the manholes, stripe the highway and open all lanes back up to traffic.

Some work will continue until October to finish landscaping and to replace temporary wood railing near the north end of the project with permanent railing. Through the fall and winter, utilities will continue moving their infrastructure to prepare for the second and final season of work on this project. Next year, work will improve Eisenhower Street to Labrosse Hill Street and is anticipated to take from March to October 2023 to complete.

This project is the next phase of work that originally began in 2018 to rebuild US-95 through town with a continuous center turn lane and pedestrian facilities on both sides. More information is available at

Traffic to shift next week in US-95 work zone at Granite Hill

Aerial view of new pavement over Granite Hill

Traffic will shift early next week at the U.S. Highway 95 work zone at Granite Hill north of Athol. Drivers will be directed onto the newly paved lanes of the highway starting Tuesday, Sept. 13.

“We are very close to being done,” ITD Project Manager Steven Bakker said. “We plan to stop impacting traffic by mid-October.”

Traffic has been running on Mineral Ridge, the new frontage road to the east, since August 2021. The new frontage road to the west, called Vintage Road, will fully open north of Homestead Road roughly one week after the main traffic shift.

Drivers should still plan to slow down in the area as work will continue near the Trails End Road intersection; crews will also install signage, finish landscaping and add rumble strips before the project is complete.

This $21 million project began in fall 2020 and is expected to finish by November, one year ahead of schedule.

 

Nighttime repairs start again on US-95 Spokane River Bridge

US-95 where it crosses the Spokane River

Work has now been rescheduled to the following week. For the exact start date, drivers should refer to message signs placed on the highway closer to construction or 511.

Nighttime repairs will start again on the U.S. Highway 95 bridge over the Spokane River, with work beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 14. Drivers heading downtown after 7 p.m. over the next two months should plan for congestion.

Last summer crews sealed the driving surface and began work on the railing. This fall crews will replace the railing as well expansion joints that allow the structure to expand and contract with the weather.

“Generally drivers should only have to contend with the shoulders being closed, but there will be a few weeks when the contractor is working on the joints that we’ll also close a lane,” ITD Project Manager Cole Mosman said.

Construction this year will be followed by a larger project in 2023 that will repair the concrete piers and paint the underside of the bridge.

Find live traffic impacts at 511.idaho.gov.