Permanent signal structure set for installation on SH-53 at Ramsey Road

Sunset view behind intersection of SH-53 and Ramsey Road, showcasing temporary traffic signal overhead.

Beginning next week, crews will be installing the permanent traffic signal structure and advance warning lights at the intersection of State Highway 53 and Ramsey Road east of Rathdrum.

The existing temporary signal was originally installed in 2019 to help with congestion while traffic was detoured during construction of the interchange at SH-53 an US-95. Construction for roadway improvements and widening to this intersection were completed in 2023 with the addition of right and left turn lanes on both roadways to improve safety and accommodate increasing volumes of traffic.

This permanent signal installation will finalize the project and should be completed over the course of two weeks. During that time there may be temporary lane reductions or closures to accommodate crews and equipment as they work.

Plan ahead by using Idaho 511 online, on your phone or on the app for updates and delays.

Nighttime work to begin in early March on the Long Bridge

Nighttime work on the Long Bridge south of Sandpoint is scheduled to begin in early March to reinforce and protect the driving surface.

Taking advantage of the mild winter weather, crews are getting a jump start on this project early in the season by first grinding down the existing roadway. Crews will then return in the summer to resurface the bridge to provide better traction and protect it from regular wear and tear from traffic and the weather.

This initial phase is expected to take up to two weeks, and all work will be completed overnight from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to avoid slowing down traffic during the day. Flaggers will be staged at either end of the bridge allowing a single, alternating lane of traffic to pass while crews work their way across the structure. This work is largely dependent on weather conditions. Digital messaging boards will be used to alert drivers ahead of the anticipated start date.

Work later this summer will take approximately one month to complete. During this time, drivers will encounter a similar experience during nighttime hours with traffic reduced to a single lane.

Project Manager Steve Nettleton explains that this work is necessary upkeep on the bridge surface.

“By doing this work now, we’re able to take a different approach to grinding the deck and get the work done much quicker,” Nettleton said.

Drivers should pay attention to digital messaging boards, and plan ahead for delays by utilizing Idaho’s 511 system for real-time updates.

Nine ITD snowplows hit so far this winter season

Damaged rear of snowplow.

Winter weather has brought snowy driving conditions to much of Idaho. Unfortunately, the rise in snowy road conditions has also led to a sharp rise in snowplow strikes. Nine Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) plows have been hit so far this winter season. Five strikes happened over the last seven days.

Two of the most recent strikes happened this Wednesday in the Magic Valley, one on I-84 north of Twin Falls, and one on I-84 west of Wendell. Both involved a semi truck rear-ending a plow. The vehicles will be out of service for up to two weeks while they undergo repairs.

“It’s a major impact on maintenance sheds when equipment is taken out of service. We are limited on snowplows,” Jerome Foreman Brian Davidson said. “It makes it more difficult to keep roads clear.”

Another recent strike happened on Tuesday in Nampa. The plow was heading eastbound on I-84 near Karcher Road. A pickup pulling a trailer merged onto the interstate and lost control. The trailer swung out and hit the ITD vehicle’s wing plow. There was no lasting damage to the snowplow.

ITD wants to remind drivers how to be safe around snowplows.

  1. Do not pass a plow on the right. Plows have a 10-foot extendable wing plow on the right side that may be difficult to see in snowy conditions.
  2. Provide ample space for plows to work and steer clear of their blind spots. This also means increasing your following distance behind the plow.
  3. Practice patience and stay behind the plow for the safest road conditions.
  4. Plows often operate in pairs to clear multiple lanes; never position yourself between tandem plows.
  5. In case of a crash or if you need to stop on the side of the road, stay inside your vehicle for both your safety and that of our plow operators.

Last winter, there were 17 plow strikes, a number 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 and photos of plow strikes, visit ITD’s Facebook or X pages. 

Lane closed on SH-3 bridge near Cedar Creek Campground after inspection

Log truck passing over bridge on SH-3 under a temporary traffic signal

CLARKIA — As of this morning the Idaho Transportation Department has closed the northbound lane of the bridge over the St. Maries River on State Highway 3 near milepost 57. A temporary traffic signal has been placed to allow alternating traffic over the bridge in the southbound lane, and load limit and width restrictions have been put in place for commercial vehicles.

graphic map of area surrounding SH-3 bridgeEngineers recently completed a review of the structural integrity of this bridge and found the piers under the northbound lane showing an advanced rate of deterioration from seasonal fluctuations in water levels.

Crews are working on re-fortification of the piers, similar to work performed beneath the southbound lanes of this bridge in 2020, to renew the integrity of the structure and restore both lanes of traffic for normal use.

This bridge is currently scheduled for full replacement in 2027, but may be advanced to earlier years depending on the rate of deterioration.

The ability for crews to complete work will largely depend on weather and temperature conditions over the next few weeks.

Drivers are encouraged to check Idaho 511 for any delays caused by this closure and updated load restrictions for commercial vehicles.

 

ITD looks to give ‘green light’ to better visibility on snow plows

Bright green LED light on wing plow

A small number of snowplows in North Idaho are taking part in a preliminary testing program being used to assess the efficacy of increasing visibility on plows and reducing the number of strikes each winter.

These ultra-bright, LED lights are being put to the test not only to measure how effective they are, but also how well they stand up to the abuse of being attached to one of the hardest working members of a snow fighting team – the wing plow.

Science has proven that green and yellow are some of the most highly visible, detectable and recognizable colors on the spectrum to the human eye, both day and night, which is why green and amber have been selected as the colors for testing.

Often, even when it’s not actively snowing, the plows on these trucks kick up tremendous clouds of snow and slush making it extremely difficult for drivers to see the low-profile wing plow while crews work. No matter how often drivers are warned to never pass a plow on the right, inevitably there are those who either miss the memo, or are too impatient to heed the warning and that is typically when those plow strikes occur.

The hope is that these bright lights will produce enough illumination to shine through the sprays of snow, slush and ice and be a visual warning to motorists that there is dangerous equipment on the road ahead.

Compared to the heavy financial hit suffered each time a plow is struck these lights are an incredibly inexpensive and effective way to improve safety, each ringing in at around $300 in total for the parts and labor required to install them.

On the flip side, while the circumstances of each plow strike are unique, it is estimated that it costs the Idaho Transportation Department roughly $10,000 per incident in parts and labor to repair equipment damaged in an incident. In addition to the financial hit, the larger impact is often having a truck out of service for extended periods of time meaning additional strain on mechanics to get them fixed, and on plow crews to work harder with fewer resources to keep the roads safe.

If these lights prove successful over the 2023-2024 winter, ITD will likely do a more comprehensive pilot program next year including more trucks across broader areas throughout the state.

Green lights have been successfully adopted several state transportation departments including Utah and Montana, and in several cities and counties in eastern Washington. They are also currently being considered by Washington, Wyoming, and Oregon state transportation departments. “Having uniformity between neighboring agencies is another big reason we are trying this out,” said Fleet Operations Manager Ryan Crabtree This uniformity enhances safety by ensuring driver experiences and expectations remain the same from place to place as they travel throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Getting panhandle drivers “Idaho Ready” for winter!

ISP Trooper and ITD plow driver teaching during a winter driving safety class in Coeur d'Alene

Each year the Idaho Transportation Department urges people to be “Idaho Ready” for winter, and two employees in North Idaho are putting those words into action!

For anyone new here, “Idaho Ready” is a campaign rolled out each year through the Idaho Office of Highway Safety encouraging residents to understand that in our beautiful state there are a few strings attached when it comes to winter driving. Being prepared for conditions, understanding safety, and planning ahead are all tools that can help drivers get from point A to B successfully and safely during our cold, snowy months.

To help drivers, especially those new to the road or to Idaho, TJ Gibson and Gary Davis have stepped up to the plate volunteering to teach winter safe driving courses throughout the panhandle.

When it comes to teaching, Gary is a seasoned professional, having taught the SNOW (Safely Navigate Our Winters) curriculum in conjunction with driver education courses in Bonner County for the last two and a half years.

“This information is important for kids, not just during the fall and winter months, but all year long,” said Davis. To ensure teens during warm-weather classes receive the same information, Gary teaches this course every 2 months in Sandpoint. “I have fun working with them, and I know it makes an impact because there have been times that I’ve run into these kids with their parents in the community and they will pull mom or dad over and introduce them to me saying ‘that’s him, he was the one who taught us all about winter driving and snowplows!’”

“It feels good knowing what I do leaves a lasting impression on these kids and knowing that what I’m up here teaching them is helping to save lives.”

For the first time ever, ITD has also teamed up this fall with Idaho State Police Troopers to offer free Winter Safe Driving courses to the public. Course attendees sit through a 90-minute presentation that covers vehicle preparation, appropriate speed and steering for conditions, and crash safety by Trooper Troy Tulleners, who is featured statewide in a weekly Traffic Tip Tuesday social media vlog. The class is then rounded out by ITD plow operators explaining our snow-fighting methods, equipment and how drivers can interact safely with plows on the road.

On November 4, Gibson, Foreman of the 170 CDA Metro Crew, stood in front of an audience of over 70 teens and adults, introducing them to the world of winter-maintenance operations, road clearing and most importantly, the often-unseen but ultra-effective wing plow that is involved in a majority of strike incidents.

“Of course, when a plow gets hit, the safety of everyone involved is what we worry about most. Beyond that, you also need to understand the time and cost involved with those crashes and what the implications of that are for our force,” explained Gibson. “Each one of those machines is critical to our ability to keep the roads clear and safe, so when one goes down, that means risk goes up.”

“I live in this community too, just like you all, and I’m not immune to being stuck behind a plow every now and again too, but a little bit of patience goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and keeping those trucks on the road.”

Understanding the importance of winter-driving safety, especially when it comes to proper vehicle equipment, several local Les Schwab Tires stores have also partnered with us for these courses, offering a 10% discount on a new set of winter tires to any class participants who bring in their certificate of completion.

Public invited to open house on Rathdrum Prairie transportation study

Traffic congestion along US-95 in Coeur d'Alene

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) invites the community to attend a public meeting to learn more about a study to evaluate the state highway and local roadway system within the Rathdrum Prairie.

ITD is initiating a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) study to evaluate the state highway and local roadway system within the Rathdrum Prairie stretching from Interstate 90 north to State Highway 53 and from the Washington state line east to Government Way. This effort is looking at optimizing existing corridors and exploring potential new routes that will mitigate congestion, enhance connectivity, and improve mobility throughout the region.

The public meeting will be held in an open house format, allowing participants to attend anytime between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Public Meeting

November 1

Red Lion Templin’s Hotel on the River

Merganser/Redhead Meeting Room

414 East First Avenue

Post Falls, ID

 

ITD will share information about the PEL process and timeline of events while allowing participants to talk with the team, interact with study area maps, and share ideas about potential improvements.

An online version of this meeting, including all the same content and information, will be available from November 2 to November 16 at https://itdprojects.idaho.gov/pages/rathdrum-prairie-pel for those who are unable to attend in person.

Recommendations from the PEL study, and the public and agency input received, may be adopted or incorporated into future National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) studies.

ITD partners with City of St. Maries to add paving to waterline project

Photo of construction zone in St. Maries Idaho

Work is ongoing in the City of St. Maries to upgrade city water, sewer, and drainage lines. The Idaho Transportation Department has partnered with the city, contributing approximately $1 million dollars to its project so that much-needed paving over the work area could improve stretches of State Highways 3 and 5.  

 

According to St. Maries Public Works Director Jeff Keen, construction on this project has been challenging due to a variety of unique factors such as system layout, depth, and antiquated materials from the days of old.  

 

“This project isn’t just beneficial to the city, but to the state as well, allowing us to fix sink holes and deficiencies in the roadways caused over the years by failing infrastructure buried underneath such as clay pipes,” Keen said.  

 

To make the project more manageable, engineers have designed it in two phases with the first addressing a section of SH-3, or W. College Ave, between 1st and 2nd Street. Work through this initial phase is nearing completion, with final paving anticipated to begin within the next two weeks depending on weather. Detour routes will remain in place until paving is completed and project directors are working closely with ITD to keep the Idaho 511 system updated. 

 

The second phase of this project will address SH-5 (Main Street) from 11th Street to 15th Street and is set to begin construction in spring of 2024. Drivers can expect similar road closures and detours in this future phase.  

 

As partners in safety, ITD encourages motorists to be aware of ongoing traffic impacts and plan their commutes accordingly. Use caution while traveling through work zones, be patient, and drive for conditions to help crews complete this project quickly and safely ahead of winter. 

 

Specific project details are available through the city of St. Maries and as always, up-to-date traffic impact information is available online through Idaho 511 or by downloading the Idaho 511 app to your device. 

District 1 partners with ISP to host free Winter Driving Safety Courses

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Idaho State Police (ISP) are teaming up in District 1 to provide free, informative and engaging winter driving safety classes in November as the region prepares for icy roads and adverse weather.  

While these courses are beneficial for drivers of all ages and skill levels, they are especially geared towards young drivers and anyone new to the area who may be preparing for their first winter driving season.  

Courses will be taught by ISP Troopers and ITD Operators, covering a wide range of topics from proper vehicle preparation, equipment, road conditions, crashes and snowplow safety. Participants who attend the course will receive a certificate of completion and be eligible for a 10% discount on a set of new snow tires at eight regional Les Schwab Tires locations. 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4 

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. 

Coeur d’Alene Public Library-Community Room 

702 E. Front Ave. 

Coeur d’Alene, ID 

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 18 

10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. 

North Summit Church 

201 N. Division Ave. 

Sandpoint, ID 

 

Seating is limited and classes are filling up quickly! Attendees for either class must register online (click here) to reserve a seat. Additional courses may be scheduled at a later date.  

 

ITD’s snow & ice team again best in nation!

Despite more competitors than ever before, the ITD maintenance team took home first-place honors at the Snow & Ice Conference and National Snow Roadeo for the second time in three years. They won it in 2021 and placed second nationally last year.

Winning the overall team award again in Colorado September 29 against 300 competitors from all across the country is impressive,” said ITD Chief Deputy and COO Dan McElhinney. “We are proud of our ITD maintenance roadeo team members for their commitment to skill excellence, work zone safety and representing Idaho as the best in the nation!”

The ITD team (pictured at right) featured Kyler Fullmer and Stacey McCurdy of District 6 (East Idaho), Jed Henderson of District 1 (North Idaho), and Brandon Steffens of District 5 (Southeast Idaho). These were also the top four finishers in the state roadeo competition held in July in Salmon, Idaho.

McCurdy, Henderson and Steffens were also on the team that won the national title in 2021.

“I would like to thank the participants,” said first-year roadeo coordinator Alan Huey. “They were proud to represent ITD and showcase the department’s commitment to safety and the skills that translate into service for Idaho’s drivers each winter.”

“The competition was tough, but the team delivered a top-notch performance.”

Each event featured loads of competitors — Single Axle had 53 participants, Grader had 58, Tandem Axle had 59, and Skid Steer had 69. The Loader event featured 100 participants!

“It’s great that we can come together as a team from all different districts to take first place again this year as an agency,” said D1’s Henderson, who made his third straight trip to nationals this year, and was also a part of ITD’s first title team in 2021. “Everyone performed so well, and I look forward to competing again next year.”

Henderson also expressed his appreciation to Kelley Dick, who is moving on from the roadeos next year after promoting to ITD Fleet Manager.