Twelve miles of US-95 south of Culdesac to be repaved this summer

Log truck at top of the grade on US-95

Twelve miles of US-95 south of Culdesac will be repaved this summer, with impacts to traffic starting Monday, May 3. Motorists should plan up to 15 minutes of extra time to navigate through the work zone.

Until work is complete this October, drivers should expect one lane to be closed during working hours. The highway will open to two lanes at night and on the weekends when crews are not working.

Work will be focused between mileposts 267 – 271 south of Craigmont, portions of US-95 between mileposts 273 – 283 north of Craigmont and at approximately milepost 289 in the canyon. Crews will begin with the section in the canyon and progress south past Craigmont.

These repairs cost $7.3 million and will be completed by Valley Paving & Asphalt of Cottonwood.

Over the last two years, the Idaho Transportation Department has improved safety in the area by widening the highway to accommodate 2.5 miles of passing lane for southbound drivers. While no expansion work will take place this year, three more phases of work to extend the passing lane another 6.5 miles are programmed for 2023, 2024 and 2026. Paving this year will address the lanes that were not improved with previous projects.

Reconstruction of Idaho Highway 13 east of Grangeville begins May 3

Smoky horizon in ID-13

Idaho Highway 13 east of Grangeville will undergo construction this summer. Work will resurface the highway, replace drains and address soft spots.

Repairs to ID-13 from milepost 1 to 7—which does not include Harpster Grade—will start on May 3 and will last through mid-July.

Drivers should be prepared for delays up to thirty minutes while crews are on site. During daylight hours, a pilot car will guide one lane of traffic through the zone. The highway will open up to two lanes at night and on the weekends, but traffic will still be slowed by the gravel surface.

“Construction will be short but intense,” ITD Resident Engineer Joe Schacher said. “It’s desperately needed, so we were able to move up construction from 2022 to this year.”

Community members are invited to stop by an informal open house at Grangeville City Hall at 225 West North Street on Wednesday, May 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to learn more.

Poe Asphalt will complete the repairs for $3.3 million, with work inspected by Jacobs.

Subcommittee for the Idaho Transportation Board to review reclassification of Idaho County highways on Thursday

Seven Mile Canyon on Idaho Highway 162

The Idaho Transportation Board 129,000 Pound Route Subcommittee will meet Thursday, April 22 to review an application to reclassify the weight limits of several highways in Idaho County. After review, the subcommittee could provide a recommendation to the Idaho Transportation Board, which will make a final decision on the reclassification, or require further analysis by the department.

The subcommittee will convene at 12:15 p.m. PT / 1:15 p.m. MT in Jerome to discuss engineering analysis completed by department staff and comments received during the public hearing process.

The meeting will be held at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game office at 324 South 417 East, but members of the public may participate remotely via instructions located on the agenda. Since this meeting will be held after the Idaho Transportation Board meeting, participants should be prepared for any scheduling changes.

Public comments were sought in March and April on the application submitted by KBC Trucking to increase the limits on the following highways from 105,500 pounds to 129,000 pounds:

  • Idaho Highway 13 from the KBC Trucking yard at milepost 24.4 to its intersection of US-12 outside of Kooskia
  • US-12 from Kooskia to Kamiah
  • Idaho Highway 162 from Kamiah to its intersection with Old Highway 7

The applicant has also requested the use of Old Highway 7 from its intersections with ID-162 and US-95. This route is not being evaluated by ITD as it is under the jurisdiction of the Greencreek Highway District, Union Independent Highway District and Grangeville Highway District.

No further public comment will be taken at the subcommittee meeting.

The application, analysis by ITD and FAQs about 129,000-pound loads are available at itd.idaho.gov/freight.

A final decision by the Idaho Transportation Board could be made as early as the next regular board meeting on May 19.

Comment period open for proposed changes to commercial trucking limits on some Idaho County highways

Seven Mile Canyon on Idaho Highway 162

The Idaho Transportation Department is hosting a virtual public hearing to collect comments on a proposal to reclassify several highways in Idaho County as legal for carrying heavier loads. If approved, these highways could support commercial loads weighing up to 129,000 pounds.

KBC Trucking of Kooskia submitted an application to ITD earlier this month requesting the reclassification of the following routes to allow for more efficient transport of logs and lumber to Boise Valley:

  • Idaho Highway 13 from the KBC Trucking yard at milepost 24.4 to its intersection of US-12 outside of Kooskia
  • US-12 from Kooskia to Kamiah
  • Idaho Highway 162 from Kamiah to its intersection with Old Highway 7

The applicant has also requested the use of Old Highway 7 from its intersections with ID-162 and US-95. This route is not being evaluated by ITD as it is under the jurisdiction of the Greencreek Highway District, Union Independent Highway District and Grangeville Highway District.

These highways are currently rated for commercial loads weighing up to 105,500 pounds. Analysis of the state routes by ITD subject matter experts found that allowing heavier loads on the specified highways could be accommodated without affecting safety or pavement conditions.

A similar application was filed by Arlo Lott of Montana in 2015 but included all of ID-13 from Kooskia to Grangeville. After engineering analysis deemed the proposal would not negatively affect safety or pavement conditions, a public hearing was held and received significant public comment. The applicant later withdrew his request.

“While similar to an earlier application, the latest request excludes much of ID-13, which was the most controversial segment,” said Jan Vassar, the Idaho Transportation Board Member representing North Central Idaho. “Staff are approaching this proposal with fresh eyes, and as before, comments received will influence the decision regarding reclassification of the routes.”

The application, analysis by ITD and FAQs about 129,000-pound loads are available at itd.idaho.gov/freight. Comments are being sought until April 12 and can be submitted in the following ways:

Commenters can also call ITD Freight Program Manager Scott Luekenga at (208) 334-8057 with questions.

The department is required to conduct an analysis and public hearing on all requests to operate 129,000-pound loads on the state highway system before the Idaho Transportation Board makes a final decision. The board could make a decision as early as May.

 

With approved permit, US-95 expansion south of Moscow could start this fall

Photo of wetlands that will be impacted by US-95 expansion

Plans to expand US-95 south of Moscow are one step closer to construction, as the Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit to the Idaho Transportation Department on March 9, 2021.

“This permit was one of the last few hurdles to get our plans out to construction and make the highway safer,” said Ken Helm, the ITD project manager who has overseen expansion efforts since 1998. “Now we can finally address the last two-lane section between Lewiston and Moscow.”

The permit approves the evaluation and mitigation of permanent wetlands that will be affected by shifting the highway less than a mile to the east and adding two more travel lanes. The new route will be flatter, feature wider shoulders and have fewer access points to improve safety and reduce travel times for the 7,300 drivers who take this route each day.

“Our next step is to finish working with property owners to acquire the last remaining parcels of land necessary for expansion,” Helm said. “We aim to bid this project this summer, which means we could start construction this fall.”

Construction is expected to take two years and estimated at $60 million. For more information, visit itdprojets.org/us95thorncreektomoscow.

ITD considering partnership to reinitiate maintenance of backcountry airstrip in Lemhi County

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip corridor and borrow trench - Photo taken near entrance facing North.

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics (ITD) is seeking public comments as it considers restoring and managing a backcountry airstrip in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.

The Hoodoo Meadows airstrip (as shown in image above) is the highest in the state at an elevation of 8,200 feet, and provides access to the Frank Church – Wilderness of No Return. The airstrip is located just south of Yellowjacket Lake and near the popular Bighorn Crags area. It has not been used since the 1980s.

The site was managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) after its construction in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and traditionally used to gain recreational access for alpine lake fishing, wildlife viewing, and big game hunting. Although there were no reported accidents, in the early 1980s the airstrip was rated marginal for safety, and by 1989 trees had encroached the site and made it unusable.

In 2016, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) initiated the effort to restore the Hoodoo Meadows airstrip, due to repeated public inquiries about recreational accessibility. Together, USFS, IDFG, and ITD, with support from the Idaho Aviation Association and the Recreation Aviation Foundation, are working on an agreement that would open the site for air travel and provide for future maintenance.

“This effort has been underway for several years. Our role would be making the airstrip safe for pilots to land again, by clearing vegetation and installing safety features like runway markers,” Aeronautics Administrator Jeff Marker said. “It would take about a month of initial cleanup work on our part, but would provide more access for those who wish to explore some of the most remote places in Idaho.”

Visit itd.idaho.gov/aero to review the proposed partnership, then please provide ITD your feedback on the plan. Public comments will be accepted March 15 to March 29 through the following options:

  • Email jillian.garrigues@itd.idaho.gov
  • Record verbal testimony by calling (855) 785-2499
  • Send your written comments by mail to
    ATTN: Jillian Garrigues
    Idaho Transportation Department
    PO Box 7129
    Boise, ID 83707

The USFS sought comments in 2018 on reopening the Hoodoo Meadows airstrip. Now, the public can voice their support or concerns regarding ITD’s involvement in the partnership.

US-12 east of Kooskia anticipated to reopen tomorrow afternoon under reduced avalanche risk

A sign along US-12 warns drivers of avalanche danger

Based on monitoring by avalanche specialists and a forecast of colder temperatures, US-12 is anticipated to reopen tomorrow afternoon between Fish Creek (milepost 126) and Saddle Camp Road (milepost 139). Although no avalanches occurred, considerable hazard prompted the closing of the highway Sunday afternoon for the safety of drivers and recreationists.

The highway could reopen as early as 12 p.m. PT, but drivers should check 511.idaho.gov for updated information before traveling as conditions could change.

Avalanche specialists rely on the forecast and data provided by weather stations—one at Bald Mountain and one at Powell—to determine the risk for drivers. The station at Powell was installed last fall, and another station will be placed at Castle Butte later this year to better forecast avalanche hazard along US-12.

The last avalanche to reach US-12 was in 2008.

Section of US-12 east of Kooskia to close at 4 p.m. PT today due to avalanche hazard

Screenshot of the 511 camera at Pete King on US-12

Several miles of US-12 east of Kooskia will close today at 4 p.m. PT due to considerable avalanche hazard. Given that the forecast calls for heavy precipitation—including a mix of snow and rain—the closure is anticipated to last for an extended time.

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.

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

Subcommittee for the Idaho Transportation Board to review reclassification of Latah County highways on Thursday

Centerline photo of ID-9 south of Harvard

The Idaho Transportation Board 129,000-pound subcommittee will meet Thursday to review an application to reclassify the weight limits of several highways in Latah County. After review, the subcommittee could provide a recommendation to the Idaho Transportation Board, which will make a final decision on the reclassification, or require further analysis by the department.

The subcommittee will convene virtually at 2:15 p.m. PT / 3:15 p.m. MT to discuss engineering analysis completed by department staff and comments received during the public hearing process.

Members of the public may access the meeting via instructions located on the agenda. Since this meeting will be held after the Idaho Transportation Board meeting, participants should be prepared for any resulting delays.

Public comments were sought in December on the application submitted by Bennett Lumber Products to increase the limits on the following highways from 105,500 pounds to 129,000 pounds:

  • Idaho Highway 6 from the US-95 junction to Harvard
  • Idaho Highway 9 from Harvard to Deary
  • Idaho Highway 8 from Deary to the US-95 junction

No further public comment will be taken at the subcommittee meeting.

Download a photo of ID-9.

The application, analysis by ITD and FAQs about 129,000-pound loads are available at itd.idaho.gov/freight.

A final decision by the Idaho Transportation Board could be made as early as the next regular board meeting on February 18.

New weather station to forecast avalanche hazard on US-12

An avalanche hasn’t reached US-12 east of Kooskia since 2008, but another weather station placed in the corridor this fall will help staff experts better forecast when the next one could happen.

“You can’t just come up with a cookbook formula for avalanches,” said Bill Nicholson, the leader of ITD’s Avalanche Crew that was formed in 2000. “There are infinite number of variables. We evaluate the strength of the snow that’s on the ground and then evaluate the incoming stressors like rain, wind, snow and temperature fluctuations.”

The new station, placed at 3,639 feet, will collect information on such stressors every hour to be analyzed by the team in Lowman. The team mainly spends their time monitoring Idaho Highway 21 between Lowman and Stanley, which is nationally ranked as one of the most avalanche-prone highways and sees 20 to 50 avalanches reach the pavement each year.

Over the last decade US-12 has been closed fewer than ten times due to a considerable hazard and has a return interval of every five or ten years.

“That’s a hard number to understand,” Nicholson said. “There’s no guarantee that you will have an avalanche in that time frame. You could have two avalanches in one year, or you could have no avalanches for several years.”

Still Nicholson’s team will visit the region to maintain the stations at Powell and Bald Mountain and travel to the pass to be on standby during extreme weather events.

The steep slopes from milepost 125 to 138 are the most concerning, with gates installed at the zone’s edges. Each fall Nicholson leads training on avalanche beacons and protocol for closing the highway for Foreman Mark Schuster and his crew.

“Every operator wears a beacon that transmits his or her location while on duty,” Schuster said. “In the event that an employee gets caught in an avalanche, others will be able to use their own beacons to find them, even buried in 50 feet of snow.”

With data from the weather stations—and the one that will be installed next year at Castle Butte—experts aim to better forecast when it is time to close the highway.