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.

New nighttime traffic signal pattern for drivers on US-95 in Coeur d’Alene

Yellow traffic light on US-95 in Coeur d'Alene

 

Since mid-September, drivers in North Idaho may have noticed a change to late-night driving on U.S. Highway 95 through Coeur d’Alene. Previously, signals through the corridor used to flash yellow or red during late night hours to allow drivers already on the highway more mobility while traffic volumes were low. That pattern is no more, having been replaced by a detection and activation system designed to improve safety and prioritize northbound and southbound traffic flow.

“There are a variety of factors that influenced this change,” said Damon Allen, the district engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). “The primary driving factor behind this change is safety.”

In recent years local law enforcement agencies have reported an uptick in late night near-miss crashes at signalized intersections with more drivers entering US-95 from side streets failing to yield.

“If you look at the data, moving away from any sort of nighttime flash pattern is trending nationwide, and the reason is safety,” Allen said.

According to ITD Engineer Manager Lee Bernardi who oversees the traffic section, problems arose from drivers on side streets not realizing that northbound and southbound traffic on US-95 had a flashing yellow light, rather than a flashing red. Signals are not designed for other-directional traffic to be able to see the lit color, so it’s understandable for a driver attempting to cross US-95 with a flashing red to assume opposing traffic also has a flashing red, and would treat it as a four-way stop rather than yielding to oncoming vehicles.

Bernardi continued, “As drivers, we’re conditioned to treat flashing red lights one way, and flashing yellow lights entirely differently. Maintaining complex intersections that combine these two conflicting behaviors, coupled with the amount of growth this area has seen in recent years, it’s logical to transition to a solution that eliminates assumptions on the part of motorists.”

In addition, updating to a nighttime activation system will keep the corridor uniform with the functionality of other signals throughout the area managed by local highway districts and cities.

“It makes sense for drivers to have the same expectations on all primary roadways in the area regardless of jurisdiction or time of day, and eliminating the nighttime flash on US-95 through Coeur d’Alene does exactly that,” said Allen.

The good news for drivers is that, despite this recent change, there should be a relatively low impact to their late-night mobility. Thanks to recent radar and detection equipment upgrades at every intersection along US-95 between Interstate 90 and Lancaster Road, each signal can operate independently of timing cycles and relies simply on a ‘see it and serve it’ strategy.

Each night, when the signals change over to the activation schedule, northbound and southbound lights are designed to rest on green, prioritizing the primary flow of traffic. Typically, the only time the flow of US-95 should be interrupted is when the signals detect either turning or cross-street traffic waiting at an intersection. The lights will quickly transition to serve those waiting vehicles and then get right back to green, rather than having to wait through a timing cycle for each lane. Likewise, cross street traffic should notice a decrease in wait times to get through an intersection.

“Our primary goal is to keep traffic moving,” said Allen. “We want drivers to remember that we are also in the business of efficiency, while maintaining a balance between mobility and safety for everyone on the road.”

Public invited to provide input on two Post Falls design alternatives as part of I-90 corridor study

Aerial view of I90 through the Post Falls corridor

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will host an open house next week in Post Falls to present two design alternatives for the Post Falls area as part of the I-90 corridor study. Preliminary design alternatives include options to increase capacity and mobility in the Post Falls area, while modernizing the interstate’s infrastructure that was originally built in the 1960s and 1970s.

Open House Details

Date: Thursday, October 5

Time: 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Location: The Jacklin Arts & Cultural Center

405 N William St, Post Falls, ID 83854

“ITD received valuable feedback from the public and area stakeholders at our first open house last year. Our team has integrated that feedback into two modified alternative designs that use different approaches to improve congestion, mobility, and safety,” ITD Project Manager Erika Bowen said. “Our goal is to connect with the citizens of Post Falls to discuss these revised options and gather feedback on which alternative or features of the alternatives best improves travel for residents and businesses alike.”

The open house will feature two design alternatives adapted from the designs previously shared for public feedback in November 2022. Feedback collected in this round of public engagement will be used for an ongoing update to the master transportation plan for the city of Post Falls. Until additional funding is identified to complete the remaining analysis from Washington state line to State Highway 41, the corridor study through the Post Falls area will be on hold.

For those not able to attend the open house, an online option will share the same information and be available on October 5 at itdprojects.org/i90corridor. Comments submitted online before October 19 will be considered by the project team.

The I-90 corridor study is funded 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. Preliminary estimates value the improvements needed for I-90 between Washington state line and Coeur d’Alene at nearly $1 billion, which includes design, right of way and construction costs.

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

Final paving work in Bonners Ferry

Paving work on US-95 through Bonners Ferry

Beginning Monday, crews plan to begin a two-week daytime paving operation on U.S. Highway 95 between Labrosse Rd and Eisenhower St in Bonners Ferry.

The most significant impacts are anticipated to be between Sept 18-28 when the continuous paving work will temporarily affect business and side road access while the asphalt mat is laid and cured in front of driveways. This process typically takes one to two hours and alternate access routes will need to be used during these times.

Throughout construction traffic will remain one lane in each direction with flaggers assisting to allow truck access.

This operation will be very dynamic and subject to change to accommodate unforeseen circumstances, but we are doing our best to stay on schedule and minimize traffic impacts. Significant closures, delays or changes will be broadcast via roadside electronic messaging boards staged throughout the work zone. Please pay attention to local signage or refer to Idaho 511 for real-time updates. You may also subscribe to updates on the project website page.

As always, we urge drivers to slow down through work zones and use caution for the safety of all. Drivers should also watch for large trucks entering or exiting the construction site.

We appreciate your patience through this project and look forward to delivering a newly improved roadway to the community with an anticipated construction completion date set for mid-October!