ITD Provides Help in the Middle of the Night

The maintenance crew at the distant Powell ITD shed in north-central Idaho are quite accustomed to late-night calls. It is not uncommon to hear the radio in the background as they keep an ear out for alarming chatter while ‘off duty.’

The Powell yard is located nearly 90 miles down the scenic US-12 corridor in the heart of the Clearwater/Bitterroot National Forest. It is known by many for both its pristine beauty and rugged terrain that takes you deep into Idaho backcountry.

Unfortunately, a hiker in distress became an emergency call on the radio in the late evening of February 28. The hiker had taken a serious fall during her visit to Weir Creek Hot Springs (pictured below), sustaining major injuries while tumbling down a 200-foot embankment off the edge of the trail and into the creek. Unable to move and in desperate need of help, her companions pulled her from the freezing water to the nearby rocky bank until help could arrive.

ITD District 2 employees Bill Foust and Casey Zeimantz were the first to arrive on scene, followed by Mitch Miller. The response included Idaho State Police Trooper David Wesche, three U.S. Forest Service personnel, Lowell’s Quick Response Team, Idaho County Sheriff Deputy and an ambulance from Kooskia.

The terrain can be described as ‘super steep, narrow and super slick.’ After locating the hiker, Foust, Zeimantz and Trooper Wesche were trying the determine the best way to get down to her at the creek. “I was just glad it wasn’t snowing,” Foust said. “It would have made it even more challenging.”

Foust assisted the injured hiker by keeping her spirits up and performing a basic medical assessment to determine if she could be moved. “It was difficult to assess because she had been partially submerged for so long. She was extremely cold and hypothermic,” described Foust.

Indications were pointing to something broken, like a possible neck or back injury. Caution dictated that she wasn’t going to be moved without advanced medical care and proper immobilization techniques.

The medical team arrived from Kooskia and got her situated on a backboard. “We placed heat packs around her and wrapped her up in thermal space blankets. She couldn’t feel the heat which started to make us nervous,” shared Foust.

Next, a qualified rope team secured her to be carried back up to the trail. Foust estimated that it “took 12 or 13 of us to hoist her out of there inch by inch and with excellent teamwork.”

She was extracted at around 4:30 a.m. and en route to the hospital. Her condition was looking grim, but the team was relieved to get her to advanced care in Missoula, Montana.

A tip of the cap to these gentlemen for their eagerness to assist someone in need and for their professionalism under pressure. It was a delicate situation handled with the utmost care.

As a token of their commitment to safety, D2 Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins and Powell Foreman Richard Baerlocher awarded ITD Safety Challenge Coins to Bill, Casey and Mitch.

Bid awarded for interchange construction at Aht’Wy Plaza

Rendering of the interchange planned for the east entrance of the Aht'Wy Plaza and Clearwater River Casino

Knife River Corporation received the bid for the project that will construct an interchange on U.S. Highway 95/U.S. Highway 12 at the east entrance to Aht’Wy Plaza for $24.77 million.

With a contractor now on board, work could work could begin by mid-May and is expected to take less than two years. The four-lane highway will be separated by concrete barrier and the existing median, turn lanes and acceleration lanes will be eliminated.

Download renderings of the design of the interchange.

“The interchange will allow drivers to safely access the businesses in the plaza without any conflicts with drivers already on the highway traveling at 65 mph,” said Doral Hoff, District Engineer for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD).

In April the Nez Perce Tribe and ITD had announced the joint project would be delayed due to increased costs of essential materials. To cover rising costs, the NPT and ITD applied for additional funding from the Bureau of Indian Affairs Department of Tribal Transportation Bridge Funding, which was approved in November. The project will still make use of the original $19 million in FHWA FY2020 BUILD grant funding.

“The Nez Perce Tribe set Aht’Wy Interchange project as a priority for the past 18 years; “Safety” along this corridor has been the primary concern. It is exciting to see this project in Construction Phase!” said Samuel N. Penney, Nez Perce Tribe Executive Committee Chairman.

A tentative groundbreaking event is scheduled for April 12th. Learn more and sign up for updates at

US-95 between New Meadows and Riggins now open for travel

US-95_between Riggins and New Meadows_burning off propane_February 2023

ITD and many other interagency partners are pleased to announce that the hazardous incident on U.S. Highway 95 between New Meadows and Riggins has been cleared, and the highway is officially back open for travel.

On Thursday morning a propane truck overturned on the highway at milepost 177, rupturing the tank. First responders from multiple agencies worked both day and night to clean up thousands of gallons of propane, which is a highly flammable material, to allow the highway to safely reopen.

The department would like to thank everyone for their patience during the emergency response and wish travelers a safe drive to their final destinations. All travelers should continue to check for conditions and closures on state highways and interstates.

February 10 update

US-95 between New Meadows and Riggins closed until further notice

Overturned propane truck
Overturned propane truck

Both lanes of U.S. Highway 95 will remain closed until further notice between New Meadows and Riggins due to a crash involving hazardous materials.

Yesterday around lunchtime a propane truck overturned on US-95 at milepost 177, rupturing the tank. First responders continue to clean up thousands of gallons of propane, which is a highly flammable material.

“This is a developing situation,” District 3 Field Operations Manager Eric Copeland said. “Depending how well recovery of the vehicle and propane goes, the highway could reopen as early as tomorrow or take until early next week.”

The highway is closed between mileposts 161 and 180. Local accesses to residences in the area is being provided, but no detour through the crash site exists.

Drivers should find alternative routes, including through Oregon and Washington, if they need to travel between New Meadows and Riggins at this time, and check for updates. Another update will be sent tomorrow morning.

February 9 update

Extended closure of US-95 expected after crash south of Riggins

Both lanes of U.S. Highway 95 are currently closed south of Riggins due to a crash involving hazardous materials. The closure is expected to be in place until late evening.

Drivers should check for updates.

Construction resumes on US-95 south of Moscow

Drone Shot of Construction from Oct. 17th, 2022

The 2023 construction season began today for U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow. Work will take place near Eid Road and will include building a rock embankment for the site of the two new bridges and excavation on the north side of Reisenauer Hill. Controlled blasting is expected to resume weekly and continue throughout the spring.

Work in 2023 and 2024 will build two bridges over Eid Road and pave the new set of lanes. Each season of construction will generally occur between April and October.

Last year, earthwork was completed on more than 2.5 miles of the new alignment, putting the project at about 30 percent complete. More than $17 million has been spent so far on the project.

Expanding the highway to four lanes on a new alignment will not only add capacity and reduce travel times but also significantly improve safety.

It is anticipated that drivers will be able to take the new route in fall of 2024.

More project information is available at

As part of Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one¬time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. This project is partially paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

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 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 or the Idaho 511 App for road conditions before traveling. For more winter driving tips, visit

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

Leading Idaho grant funds snow-removal equipment at Orofino airport

Gov. Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiative recently helped fund $75,000 in new snow-removal equipment for the Orofino Municipal Airport in north-central Idaho. The newly purchased truck is set up for sanding, deicing, and plowing.

Orofino averages 21.4 inches of snow each winter season. The airport is located about a mile northwest of town, on the south side of the Clearwater River. It is located in a steep canyon, with high-terrain approaches both north and south of the airport.

“This new truck will make a huge impact,” said Ryan Smathers, Orofino City Administrator. “The airport has been basically out of service during major snow events, and this will help us respond in a timely manner.“

“We had to rush to get the runway cleared with a front-end loader for Life Flight to land in winters past. This will help keep the runway open during all types of weather conditions. Having the capability to spray deicer and sand, along with the scoop plow, will be a game-changer.”

Jennifer Schildgen, Airport Planning Manager with the Idaho Division of Aeronautics, agrees.

“The Leading Idaho Initiative has provided airports statewide with greatly needed grant funds to support the Idaho Aviation System,” she stated. “The Orofino Airport’s Snow Removal Equipment project is a wonderful example of how the State is supporting our transportation system.”

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 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.

Passing lane construction on US-95 to shut down soon

Partly finished highway project on US-95 with snow on the mountains

After the next two weeks, drivers will no longer be slowed by construction to build a passing lane on U.S. Highway 95 between Culdesac and Winchester as the project shuts down for winter.

The original schedule included the opening of a new passing lane for southbound drivers in November, but challenges with environmental resources has delayed completion.

A few months into construction the contractor discovered important sensitive resources within the project limits and stopped all work on that portion of the project.

The Idaho Transportation Department works with the Nez Perce Tribe and other entities on certain projects to avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to these sensitive resources. On some projects with potential cultural resources, the department hires resource monitors to observe construction activities.

During construction, monitors identified sensitive resources and stopped work in that area until further investigation could be completed, and mitigation could be approved. At this time, the department is still working with the Tribe to finish the investigation, so construction in the area is not yet allowed to proceed.

Then in late August, while the contractor was building a retaining wall near Lapwai Creek, some steelhead trout were stranded and subsequently died. Steelhead trout in the region are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Construction plans were approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the project was approved for some fish being harmed or killed, though to a lesser extent.

“After the incident this year, we partnered with the Tribe and the NMFS to revise the plan for the remainder of construction. We will also discuss the remainder of work so that the fish are better protected when we resume work,” Resident Engineer Curtis Arnzen said.

Arnzen believes collaboration on this project will improve construction practices for future projects as well.

“Given the environmental challenges of the project, we do not know exactly when construction will begin next year, but we hope to start next July, which is a good time of year for in-water work in Lapwai Creek relating to the protection of threatened fish,” Arnzen said.

This project is part of a corridor-wide plan to finish building an 11-mile passing lane in Culdesac Canyon to provide safer opportunities for drivers to pass.

Rock scaling begins next week on White Bird Grade

Railroad containers set in place to shield traffic

Sept. 12 update:

Rock scaling will begin Tuesday, September 20, at the top of White Bird Grade to stabilize the slope above U.S. Highway 95. Work over the next several weeks will intermittently affect the highway.

Scaling involves knocking down loose debris proactively, with rocks falling from the hillside down to the road. Specialized equipment will excavate rock at the top and flatten the slope.

“At least for the first day, we’ll have flaggers there to stop all traffic for 20 minutes at a time while workers are scaling,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.

Work is scheduled Monday through Saturday, with construction starting each day at daybreak.

“As work continues, we may allow traffic to flow without being stopped during work if it is safe to do so,” Hopkins said.

Metal containers that have been shielding drivers since the rockslide in May at this location will be shifted back on to the highway. The passing lanes will be closed earlier, forcing drivers to merge sooner. When crews are not on site, traffic will flow freely over the hill with one lane in each direction.

Drivers are encouraged to check road conditions at

May 11 update:

All lanes on U.S. Highway 95 are now open after the Idaho Transportation Department removed debris from a rockfall on Monday morning and placed barriers to protect drivers.

One lane had remained open immediately following the rockfall. New railroad containers have taken the place of concrete rail to offer better protection should more rocks come down.

An excavator scoops up freshly fallen rocks on US-95
An excavator scoops up freshly fallen rocks on US-95

“More rocks fell down this morning. The slope is not stable,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “This will not be a quick fix.”

The department is working to secure an emergency contract to further assess conditions and then likely use specialized equipment to scale the slope. Scaling involves knocking down loose debris proactively.

May 9 update:

Rockfall on US-95 blocks one lane on White Bird Grade
Rockfall on US-95 blocks one lane on White Bird Grade

Following persistent rain over the last week, a rockfall blocked lanes this morning on U.S. Highway 95 at the top of White Bird Grade south of Grangeville. The highway remains reduced to one lane.

Rocks ranging from 6 inches to 6 feet wide blocked the southbound lane around 10 a.m. Crews immediately responded by alternating northbound and southbound traffic and hauling away debris.

Rocks continued to fall down the slope, prompting the Idaho Transportation Department to place concrete rail to protect drivers. A spotter will watch the hillside through the night, ready to close the highway at a moment’s notice. Flaggers will control traffic through tonight and likely tomorrow night.

“This happened during blue skies,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “Just a reminder that sometimes it takes a bit for rain to seep into a slope and make it unstable.”

Experts will continue to monitor the site. The department is arranging for large railroad containers to be placed at the edge of the highway to block any future rockfall.

“We will let this settle overnight, but in the morning our goal is to continue removing debris,” Hopkins said. “Once larger barriers are in place, we’re hopeful to have one lane in each direction while we identify a long-term solution.”

The department is also working to secure an emergency contract to use specialized equipment to scale the slope, a process that involves knocking down loose debris proactively.

Drivers are encouraged to monitor road conditions at