Cycling group expresses gratitude for ITD efforts during US-12 construction

We know this summer’s construction has been less-than-convenient for many drivers, and knowing that there’s still several weeks of construction ahead, we would like to take the time to say thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Recently, the department received thanks about its efforts to support all users during construction from a local bicycling association. To read that letter, click here.

These words of gratitude mean a great deal to ITD as our project managers have worked hard to oversee these projects that will improve your safety and mobility along this corridor.

Any time we receive feedback, we try to respond or adjust our practices when possible. While planning construction this summer, we heard that this corridor was a popular bicycling destination and worked to reduce our impact. The result was a partnership with Three Rivers Rafting to offer a shuttle, which is noted in the above letter from the Adventure Cycling Association.

Once again, thank you for your patience, and please continue to reach out with any comments or concerns.

Several agencies partner to improve fish passage near Elk City

Beginning the week of August 27, crews will work to improve fish passage at Moose Creek near Elk City by replacing an aging culvert under Idaho Highway 14.

The old culvert is not large enough to accommodate the flow of water and allow fish to easily pass.

“At high water, the flow is constricted and funneled into the circular pipe, creating higher velocities like a spigot,” said Miranda Main, a project manager for the Watershed Division within the Nez Perce Tribe. “The culvert is currently considered a barrier to migration for spring chinook and steelhead, but the replacement should open access to upstream habitat.”

Main said all life stages of fish would be able to swim upstream, with other features of the new culvert providing them areas to rest.

This project was designed by ITD and is funded by the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service.

Debco Construction will replace the culvert in the next two months for $500,000. During construction, travelers should expect alternating, one-way traffic through the work zone.

More safety improvements to US-12 near Kamiah to be constructed this summer

Construction will begin this week near Kamiah on US-12 to add turn lanes at Valley View Drive.
Crews will work during the day, with some Saturday work allowed. During active work, one lane will be closed. When crews are not working, US-12 will open up to two lanes.
Debco Construction will complete the turn lanes for $1 million in the next two months.

US-12 closed Friday night near Fish Creek Bridge

US-12 will be closed near Fish Creek Bridge on Friday night to allow contractors to retrieve a crane that went off the road last Thursday (Aug. 2).

A full closure is anticipated from 8 p.m. on Friday, August 10 to 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 11.

Due to the narrow and windy nature of the corridor, there are limited turnaround opportunities for larger vehicles. Drivers of larger vehicles are advised to wait for the highway to reopen or to turnaround before milepost 99 or milepost 120 to seek alternate routes.

For more information on this closure, check 511 or the project website.

Rattlesnake Creek Fire near Riggins sparks partnership

Photo provided by the incident management team/Mike Mussman.


A fire along US-95 near Riggins has sparked a partnership between ITD and a Northern Rockies incident management team to enhance safety for travelers in the area.

The fire began near milepost 184 on July 23 and spread quickly through the corridor, according to Molly Cropp, a public information officer for this team of multi-agency professionals mobilized to address long-term incidents.

No structures have been lost, but this human-caused fire is still under investigation and is currently 42% contained. More than 450 emergency management professionals have mobilized into the area, with 12 hand crews, 21 engines and four helicopters working to protect citizens, their homes and the infrastructure they rely on, Cropp said.

That infrastructure includes the highway, which is currently experiencing increased traffic as crews drive between the fire and their base camp at the rodeo grounds north of Slate Creek. Safety concerns for crews, along with low visibility, prompted a meeting between the management team and ITD.

“With the fire initially visible from the highway, there were concerns of collisions between crews and regular commuters, especially with all of the smoke,” ITD north-central Idaho Operations Manager Bob Schumacher said. “We’ve decided to reduce the speed limit from 65 mph to 45 mph for the duration of the fire or until visibility improves.”

Right now travelers should expect large trucks making turns onto, and out of, less-used routes. Cropp, along with Schumacher, encourages the public to remain engaged while driving and to avoid stopping on the highway to take pictures.

“We’ve also been relying on air resources because the terrain around the fire is so steep, and we can’t get people in there,” Cropp said. “The speed restriction through the fire area has been really helpful; our helicopters have been flying over the highway to access nearby lakes.”

This time of year, and especially in this area, it is also important to understand the fire restrictions that are in place and to use common sense.

“Flashy fuels grow next to the highway, so don’t throw any cigarettes out the window,” Cropp said. “What starts as a small brush fire can quickly turn into a big fire.”

To learn more about the Rattlesnake Fire, view daily updates at the InciWeb page.

IDFG helps ITD preserve Lochsa swimmers

Plenty of folks fish along the Lochsa River that flows beside US-12 in north-central Idaho, but not many get to electrofish.

Electrofishing is a technique used by agencies such as Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) to safely survey fish. It involves sending electricity into the water to temporarily stun fish to easily capture them with nets.

“It’s a way to sample fish without killing them,” said Joe DuPont, IDFG fisheries manager for the Clearwater region. “It allows us to get our hands on them and learn more.”

At the request of ITD, IDFG recently sent fisheries technicians to electrofish Maggie Creek, which flows under a bridge that is currently being replaced. They were able to collect important data* by surveying the fish before transporting them further upstream.

DuPont said as state agencies IDFG and ITD work together to share resources and expertise to save the state money.

ITD purposefully stages in-water work such as pier removal during a fish window, or a time when impacts to fish will be at its lowest. For District 2, that window is from July 15 to August 15.

“One month can be a tight timeframe for agencies to work within,” D2 senior environmental planner Shawn Smith said. “We appreciate IDFG’s continued partnership as we work to enhance the safety of the highway for the public while limiting impacts to the area’s valued resources.”

Following electrofishing, Smith said crews were able to use cofferdams to isolate a section of the stream without trapping any species. For the remainder of construction, fish will continue to swim upstream unimpeded.

Fish Creek Bridge, which is also under construction, will experience similar efforts by IDFG and ITD in the coming weeks.

*IDFG fisheries technicians found 1 rainbow trout, 13 speckled dace, 16 sculpin, 5 northern pike minnows, 3 suckers and 1 redside shiner while electrofishing.

Rafting company becomes partner in US-12 construction

US-12 winds its way through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and along the banks of the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, serving as a scenic gateway to a range of outdoor activities from bicycling to rafting.

This summer, recreationists will see lines of orange barrels as the Idaho Transportation Department oversees the construction of $17 million in safety improvements.

Four projects to replace two bridges and repave 50 miles of the remote highway will likely delay the average traveler nearly two hours between Kamiah and the Idaho-Montana border. Given the impacts, project managers have strived from the beginning to be responsive to community concerns and to look at the corridor in its context.

As the project manager for three of the four projects, Janet Zarate has been at the forefront of brainstorming strategies to minimize effects where possible. With the help of her supervisor Joe Schacher, they’ve initiated an innovative partnership between contractors, a rafting company and ITD.

“This route is very popular among cyclists,” Zarate said. “It was important throughout the process to consider our impacts on this group, and by thinking outside of the box, I think we’ve found a way to do that.”

Zarate and Schacher worked with Knife River, the contractor of the paving operations, to come up with some creative ideas to mitigate construction impacts to this particular group.

With paving work underway, cyclists would be faced with long work zones and a highway crowded with drivers anxious to get on their way. Knife River suggested using school buses to load these two-wheeled travelers with their equipment, but Schacher posed a different solution: offer a daytime biker shuttle, operated by a local rafting company, to give them a respite by transporting them safely through the work zone.

Just last week, Three Rivers Rafting of Lowell accepted the offer.

“This partnership makes sense because at this time of year, the river doesn’t run as high, and there are fewer rafters,” Schacher said. “During their season, these companies routinely shuttle their customers up and down the river, and we didn’t see a reason for that to end this year. They have the right equipment, and we can give them an opportunity to economically benefit from construction.”

This partnership is not the first involving this project—ITD engineers have frequently met with local stakeholders, including the U.S. Forest Service as they prepare to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“This highway means a lot to our stakeholders, whether they access it to go hiking, fishing, biking or just to enjoy the scenery,” Schacher said. “Knowing that, we’ve worked with others to be as conscientious as possible while planning and managing construction in the corridor.”

US-12 to be closed near Fish Creek Bridge within the next week

An oversize load went off US-12 last night (Aug. 2) at milepost 114 just west of Fish Creek Bridge.

There are no extra delays or restrictions through the corridor right now, but in the coming days a full closure will be announced to allow crews to remove the load. At this time the date and the duration of the full closure is unknown but is expected within the next week.

ITD will post updates via 511, signage, the project website and the corridor newsletter.

ITD to close ID-13 near Harpster Thursday night for crane removal

Idaho Highway 13 near Harpster will be closed Thursday night (Aug. 2) to allow contractors to remove a truck-mounted crane from a ditch.

The crane went off the roadway at milepost 14.2 more than a week ago. It is estimated to weigh 37 tons and will take two cranes positioned on the roadway to haul out of the ditch.

The closure will start at 7 p.m. Thursday night and is anticipated to last until 9 a.m. Friday morning. A detour will be posted.

For the latest on highway closures, check 511.

Updated schedule released for north-central Idaho sealcoats

Update as of July 16: Idaho Highway 11 between Greer and the top of Greer Grade will not be sealcoated this week. Crews will move on to Idaho Highway 11 from Weippe to Grangemont Road while the Greer Grade portion is rescheduled.

To extend the life of previously completed highway projects, sealcoats will be applied to several highways throughout the region starting July 9. The newly-treated surface helps preserve the pavement and provides for better vehicle traction.

When sealcoats are applied, roadways will be reduced to one lane. Motorists should anticipate short delays and watch for the presence of pilot cars.

Sealcoating is a roadway surface treatment best applied during the hot and dry months of summer when chips of aggregate will properly adhere to an oil layer deposited on the highway.

Drivers are cautioned to slow down and pay attention within the work zones, as chips placed during the sealcoating process have the potential to cause windshield damage.

Crews will begin applying sealcoats in the order below:

  • July 9: Idaho Highway 8 from Moscow to Troy (11.7 miles)
  • July 12: Idaho Highway 8 from Deary to Bovill (10.2 miles)
  • July 16: Idaho Highway 11 from Greer to the top of Greer Grade (8 miles)
  • July 20: Idaho Highway 11 from Weippe to Grangemont Road (11 miles)

All sealcoats are expected to be completed by the end of July.