US-95 at slide south of Riggins to remain closed

Rock scalers dislodge loose material on the slope above US-95 at milepost 188

July 10 UPDATE

Massive boulders came down last night at the U.S. Highway 95 slide south of Riggins (milepost 188). The slope above the route remains too unstable to allow for traffic or rock removal crews in the area.

“The highway will remain closed until we are able to evaluate this new development and determine the best option to safely stabilize the slope.” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.

The department had already built a temporary gravel road to detour traffic around the base of the slide, but continued significant movement on the slope closed it on July 8.

“The extensive rock fall that occurred last night confirmed that we had made the right decision to completely close that portion of US-95 to traffic,” Hopkins said.

Early next week, crews will again begin scaling the slope and surveying the area.

“Currently there are a lot of overhanging boulders and ledges,” stated Hopkins. “We don’t yet know how stable these are and until we are able to further evaluate the area, crews will not be able to engage in rock removal operations.”

Old Pollock Road will continue to serve as a detour around the slide during daytime hours – 6 am – 8 pm PDT (7 am – 9 pm MDT). The detour will remain closed at night in order for crews to perform maintenance operations on the roadway, which typically does not see this amount of traffic.

“It’s very important that we maintain the integrity of Old Pollock Road so that it can continue to serve as a viable option for detouring traffic during this time,” Hopkins said.

The slope and area around the slide is considered extremely hazardous. ITD is asking citizens to stay away from the area for their safety. The department is also asking drivers choosing to use the detour, to ensure that they drive attentively in order to keep traffic flowing.

“The proven unpredictability of this slide requires that we remain flexible,” Hopkins said. “While our goal is to safely reopen the highway as soon as possible, we are very thankful that no one has been injured and will focus our efforts to ensure that it remains that way.”

Updates will be provided on the status of the slide as they are made available. At present, there is no estimated time for reopening of the highway.

July 8 evening update

The recently reopened detour around the US-95 closure south of Riggins due to a July 3 rockslide will not open tomorrow following discovery of significant movement on the slope. This closure is anticipated to last at least two days.

“Between Monday and today, one of our survey targets moved nearly two inches,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “That kind of activity may not sound like much, but in terms of geological movement it is alarming.”

The continued closure at US-95 will allow geotechnical experts to perform intensive scaling activities to dislodge the rock and reassess site conditions.

During the closure, Old Pollock Road will serve as a detour for both passenger and commercial traffic.

“This is a one-lane gravel road that is nearly four miles long,” Hopkins said. “Even with this open, getting through the area could take up to three hours.”

Repairs to Old Pollock Road were completed earlier tonight. Flaggers will be on scene tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. PDT / 7 a.m. MDT to direct alternating traffic.

“Slides are unpredictable, and this one keeps proving that,” Hopkins said. “For the safety of drivers and our workers, we have to close it. Until this problem is solved, we recommend that drivers check 511 every time they travel on US-95.”

July 8 morning update

Operators weigh down protective containers near the temporary road around the US-95 MP 188 slide
Operators weigh down protective containers near the temporary road around the US-95 MP 188 slide

U.S. Highway 95 will open to one lane of traffic between Pollock and Riggins this morning by 10 a.m. PDT/ 11 a.m. MDT and stay open until 8 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. MDT for the first time since the July 3 rockslide closed it at milepost 188.

Drivers will pass around the slide on a temporary gravel road. They should expect lengthy delays as only a limited number of vehicles will be allowed to pass underneath the slope at one time. Scaling activity above will also require periodic 20-minute closures over the next couple of days.

“We have built a rock berm and placed large container boxes to shield traffic from any unforeseen rockfall,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “A spotter and a surveyor will watch the hillside and be ready to have flaggers close the highway in the unlikely event it becomes unstable.” 

Starting Thursday, ITD plans to open the highway from 6 a.m. PDT /7 a.m. MDT to 8 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. MDT each day. Approximately 30 minutes before the highway is closed each night, staff at barricades in Riggins and New Meadows will turn traffic away.

Crews will continue breaking down rocks and pushing them up against the existing berm to make it taller and provide more room for any further debris.

Download a photo of operators filling the container boxes with rocks last week.

Improvements to Old Pollock Road will be completed later today, serving as another one-lane gravel option for local commuters only but not commercial traffic.

“For the time being, motorists should plan for congestion and expect the highway to be closed at night when we can’t monitor the slope,” Hopkins said. “We expect to keep flagging and monitoring for several weeks until we identify a long-term solution.”

Another update will be released when the long-term solution is identified next week.

July 7 update

Rock scalers dislodge loose material on the milepost 188 slide
Rock scalers dislodge loose material on the milepost 188 slide

The Idaho Transportation Department plans to open US-95 to traffic between Pollock and Riggins tomorrow, Wednesday (July 8) following the evaluation of geotechnical experts yesterday and positive results from continued monitoring. The highway will only open during the day to allow observation of the slope.

“Yesterday geotechnical professionals measured the slope to identify short-term options to get the highway safely open,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “Today rock scalers will keep dislodging any loose material.”

Crews have closed Old Pollock Road to add gravel and install culverts to help the county repair it for local and commuter traffic. Work is expected to take up to two days.

Recent rain could affect the stability of the slope. More details will be released tomorrow morning.

July 6 evening update

A temporary road is ready around the slide on US-95 at milepost 188.
A temporary road is ready around the slide on US-95 at milepost 188.
Old Pollock Road will be closed from 7 a.m. tomorrow until Wednesday evening as improvements are made for a future non-commercial detour around the slide. 

July 6 morning update

Results from geotechnical surveys on the slide south of Riggins showed significantly less movement on the slope yesterday (July 5), but the highway will remain closed today (July 6) to allow for more monitoring.

Outside experts are examining the slope today to identify short-term and long-term options to stabilize the area. They are also dislodging any loose material.

“By tomorrow morning, we will have more data to compare to the baseline conditions of the slope,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.

Crews have finished constructing the temporary road around the slide at milepost 188 and have placed barriers to protect future traffic from rockfall.

“When survey results and on-slope evaluations prove that the slide is stable, we will look to open the highway for short periods of time,” Hopkins said. “In the meantime, we are evaluating the condition of Old Pollock Road to see how we may be able to help the county with a locals-only detour.”

The Idaho Transportation Department has submitted feedback to Google Maps to show that Old Pollock Road is currently not open to traffic. There is no detour around the slide.

July 5 update

U.S. Highway 95 will no longer open to traffic between Pollock and Riggins this afternoon to allow for continued monitoring of the slide at milepost 188.

“We know this is contradictory to what we had hoped to accomplish today and will cause long detours for travelers heading home,” ITD District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “However, without enough data and uncertainty about an apparent gap at the top of the hillside, we are concerned it might be active still.”

Yesterday around 4:30 p.m. crews left the site once a crack in the rock face became visible from below. They had been working on a temporary road around the slide as well as building a rock berm and placing container boxes to shield traffic once allowed to pass through.

“The very nature of slides is unpredictable,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “At this time, we’re not sure when we will be able to open the highway, but we are continuing to conduct geotechnical surveys and tomorrow will have experts on the slope to pry off any loose material and further analyze its condition.”

July 4 update

An excavator clears rock from the slide at MP 188 on US-95 near Riggins
An excavator clears rock from the slide at MP 188 on US-95 near Riggins

Depending on geotechnical survey results, US-95 between Pollock and Riggins may temporarily open tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, July 5) to allow traffic to drive around the rock slide that has closed the highway since Friday morning.

“We were fortunate that there was no further activity last night, and if repeated surveys show no more movement, we are prepared to open the highway for a short time,” ITD District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “We have surveyors on site right now to periodically gauge the stability of the slope.”

Around 9 a.m. Friday, the slope above milepost 188 crashed onto the highway, leaving a debris field approximately 120 feet long and 40 feet deep at the base. Some rocks measure 25 feet across and just as tall. Continued rockfall throughout the day kept maintenance crews from cleaning up the slide.

Equipment and operators from across the region have been called to the area. Crews are actively working to build a temporary road around the slide with a tall berm and container boxes to protect drivers in the event of more rockfall.

“Even with those protective measures in place, the biggest threat to drivers’ safety will be the stability of the slope above them,” Hoff said. “We cannot open the highway until we know it’s safe, and we won’t know without more surveys taken over time.”

Future conditions for travel are unknown at this time. Drivers should download the 511 app, follow ITD on Facebook and Twitter and pay attention to signs in the area.

Another release will be sent Sunday morning to confirm any opening of the highway.

Work to start Monday on ID-9 pavement rehab from Deary to Harvard

A pavement rehabilitation project in which crews will repair significant cracking, grind off the top layer of the roadway, and replace it with new paving material will start Monday (July 13) from Deary to Harvard on Idaho Highway 9. The work on this 13-mile project will provide a smoother, safer ride for motorists by eliminating cracks and ruts on the road’s surface.

During this project, crews are scheduled to work Monday through Saturday during daylight hours, but may be asked to work some nights to finish the job on time. Drivers can expect a “rolling” work zone, progressing in two-mile sections as the road work progresses.

Crews will finish by applying a double sealcoat on the new stretch of road to seal the surface and provide greater traction for drivers.

Knife River Construction is the prime contractor on this $1.5-million project.

Idaho Transportation Department now taking suggestions from residents for upcoming projects

Photo of future US-95 alignment in Moscow

The Idaho Transportation Department iasking for input on the justreleased draft Idaho Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP). The 2021-2027 draft ITIP is a seven-year plan of the state’s transportation improvementsand all stakeholders are encouraged to participate.  

Projects can range from large-scale interstate improvements to smaller projects like the installation of a new guardrail. In all, the draft ITIP includes projects in all 44 counties and all modes of transportation. Projects were selected based on technical data, as well as input from local officials and residents. 

A complete breakdown of the draft plan can be found at  itd.idaho.gov/funding, as well as an interactive map that allows users to learn about projects by narrowing it down to specific categories and locations.

A few of the major projects in North-Central Idaho include:

  • US-95 expansion from Thorn Creek Road to Moscow in 2021 – 2022
  • Replacement of the East Kooskia Bridge on Idaho Highway 13 in 2027 
  • Turn lanes on US-95 north of Moscow at Estes Road and North Foothills Road in 2027

Notable changes to projects already in the program include the delay of two bridge replacements in Potlatch from 2021 to 2022 and another project to add turn lanes at US-95 and County Road in Grangeville from 2021 to 2023.

Comments will be taken from July 1-31 and can be e-mailed to ITDcommunication@itd.idaho.gov or mailed to:

ITIP – Comments
Attn: Aubrie Spence
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID  83707  

Paper copies of the ITIP will be provided upon request by contacting Aubrie at (208) 334-8119.  

All comments will be reviewed, incorporated into the ITIP where appropriate, and responses will be sent in August once the comment period has ended.

After approval by the Idaho Transportation Board in September, the ITIP will then be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency in October. 

ITD to provide free Commercial Driver’s License and Heavy Equipment Operator training August 2020

Heavy Equipment & CDL Training

When it comes to local infrastructure projects, the show must go on. In these evolving times, transitioning to a career in the essential industry of heavy highway construction has never looked so appealing!

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is pleased to announce a new 4-6 week custom training program slated for August 2020. The selected twenty applicants will receive a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a Level 1 certification as a Heavy Equipment Operator (HEO), and more.

Much like an NFL Combine or Spring Training, contractors will be invited at the conclusion of the training to meet ITD’s trainees and watch firsthand as they operate tractor-trailers and heavy construction equipment in a safe and controlled environment.  If the contractor likes what they see, they are welcome to hire new employees on the spot.

ITD’s Office of Civil Rights will be accepting applications and resumes from Friday June 12 – Friday July 10, 2020.

Send the completed application and a resume to Jasmine Platt, Contract Compliance Officer by email at civilrights@itd.idaho.gov, by picture message at 208-954-2053, or by mail at:

Idaho Transportation Department
ATTN: Jasmine Platt
P.O. Box 7129 Boise, ID 83707-1129

Applicants must be over the age of 21, hold a valid driver’s license with at least one year of driving experience, and must be able to pass a drug screening and DOT physical. No construction experience is necessary. ITD is an equal opportunity employer, and all applicants regardless of experience may apply. Women and minorities especially encouraged to apply.

 

WHAT: CDL and HEO Level 1 Training

WHEN: August 2020

WHERE: Treasure Valley (exact location TBD depending on training vendor)

Food truck services to be discontinued at Idaho rest areas

Customers line up six feet apart at a food truck stationed on I-84 at Blacks Creek

June 12

Since Governor Little lifted restrictions on restaurants as part of his economic recovery plan, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will discontinue the temporary permits for food trucks at Idaho rest areas, with the last day for food trucks set as June 12.

Food trucks have been stationed at rest areas since mid-April to offer hot meal services to essential travelers.

“More than 30 permits have been granted since we developed this provisional program,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s Mobility Services Engineer. “Now that hot meals on the road will be easier to find, those permits will expire so that ITD may be in compliance with federal rules.”

In early April the Federal Highway Administration announced it would momentarily relax enforcement of rules that prohibit commercial activity on state-owned, federally-supported right of way like rest areas.

April 16

An emergency exemption by the Idaho Transportation Department will allow permitted food trucks to set up at rest areas and offer hot meals to truck drivers and other travelers.

“We heard truck drivers were having difficulties finding hot meals with the restrictions placed on nonessential businesses during the stay-at-home order,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s Mobility Services Engineer. “Our goal is to support them as best as we can during this pandemic, especially long-haul drivers delivering goods across the U.S.”

ITD worked with the Idaho Trucking Association to identify opportune times for vendors to stage at rest areas as well as the Southern Idaho Food Truck Association to solicit appropriate vendors.

Food trucks will be permitted at rest areas around the state, with up to two vendors allowed at each site. They will not be permitted at rest areas that already offer these services and are under public-private management. Learn more about the temporary program.

“These temporary services are targeted at truck drivers and other essential travelers,” Fernandez said. “We don’t want to attract crowds and will advise permitted vendors to follow healthcare guidelines.”

Earlier this month, the Federal Highway Administration announced it would temporarily relax enforcement of rules that prohibit commercial activity on state-owned, federally-supported right of way like rest areas.

Once the stay-at-home order is lifted in Idaho and restrictions on nonessential businesses are eased, food trucks will no longer be permitted at rest areas.

Comment today on shoulder widening for US-12 east of Kooskia

A bicyclist on US-12 east of Kooskia

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) invites community input on shoulder widening plans for US-12 east of Kooskia via an online meeting at itdprojects.org/us12rangerstationtoholly from today (June 4) to June 25.

“We aim to enhance safety for motorists and bicyclists alike with the improvements we are proposing,” ITD Resident Engineer Joe Schacher said. “The design is simple, but one we have used previously and hope to extend throughout the corridor.”

The online meeting will focus on US-12 between the Lochsa Ranger Station at milepost 121 and Holly Creek at milepost 131. Major changes include widening shoulders to be two feet wide on either side and adding centerline rumble strips in no-passing zones.

“This project won’t go to construction until 2023,” Schacher said, “but it is part of our ongoing mission to improve safety from Syringa to Warm Springs.”

Comments may be submitted via the website, calling (208) 799-4233, emailing joe.schacher@itd.idaho.gov or sending mail to P.O. Box 837 in Lewiston at the attention of Joe Schacher.

Those who do not have the ability to engage online should use the contact information above, and a member of the project team will provide other resources to participate.

With drivers back on the road, ITD kicks off another work zone awareness week

Crew removing brush on US-2 as an example of a short duration operation

National Work Zone Awareness Week is traditionally held in April, but with more drivers back on highways, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is again spotlighting work zone safety.

ITD asks media partners and drivers to tune in each day this week (May 18 – 23) to the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages to see different types of work zones.

Drivers are familiar with larger road construction projects, which are typically well-marked and have better visibility, but they may not be as familiar with short-duration operations.

These can pop up anywhere, at any time. Whether it is a highway worker stopping to remove a shredded tire or animal carcass from the road, or performing maintenance work like repairing guardrail right next to the travel lanes, these jobs generally put workers closer to the road, and closer to danger. There is less time for the worker or the driver to take evasive action when encountering short-duration operations.

Just last year, an ITD operator was killed outside Arco in a short-duration operation, reminding us all of the importance of being safe and vigilant in work zones across the state.

During this week, ITD also remembers the sacrifices of other workers lost over the years while on the job – many of them were killed in work zones. Since this picture was taken, there have been two more markers added to the Fallen Workers Memorial, bringing the total to 40 workers since 1960.

“Work zones can be the most hazardous areas on our state highway system,” ITD Safety Manager Randall Danner said. “We urge drivers to use extreme caution when passing through these areas so they can arrive at their destination safely and our workers can return home to their loved ones.”

In addition to short-duration maintenance operations, ITD has dozens of projects planned this year with information on itdprojects.org. Each project is different in terms of traffic revisions and reduced speed limits. Please check 511.idaho.gov for traveler information.

US-95 repaving through Lapwai and Culdesac begins Thursday, April 23

Photo of a truck on US-95 near Lapwai

Construction to resurface six miles of US-95 through Lapwai and Culdesac will begin Thursday, April 23.

Drivers can expect alternating, one-way traffic during working hours. When crews are not on site, no lane closures will be in place.

Work is expected to last two months. During this time, drivers may encounter both daytime and nighttime work.

The highway will be repaved from Webb Road to Aspen Lane in Lapwai and from Mission Creek Road to Old Winchester Grade in Culdesac.

Once the highway is repaved, the driving surface will be smoother. Learn more at itdprojects.org/us95lapwaiculdesac.

Signal upgrade at 18th Street and Main Street in Lewiston starting tomorrow to improve traffic flow

Picture of US-12 as it crosses into Clarkston

Workers from the Idaho Transportation Department and the City of Lewiston will modify the existing signal at 18th Street and Main Street in Lewiston starting tomorrow (April 21) to improve traffic flow.

The modified signal will feature flashing yellow arrows.  

“This change improves drivers’ mobility by allowing them to turn left after checking for pedestrians and oncoming traffic without waiting for a solid green arrow,” ITD Traffic Engineer Jared Hopkins said.

Work will start at 8 a.m. and will last for several hours, during which time drivers will be directed to treat the intersection as a four-way stop.

State’s old Highway Advisory Radio system being decommissioned

The Idaho State Highway Advisory Radio (HAR) communication system is being decommissioned. The use of the old system was suspended on April 1. ITD is evaluating whether existing HAR equipment and infrastructure can be repurposed to meet other needs.

There are 25 HAR sites and 58 beacons located around the state, broadcasting emergency information on the am radio frequency. However, the equipment had reached the end of its useful life, and no longer met the technology security requirements of the state.

In addition, surveys showed that the HAR system, although once popular, was now ranked well behind other more viable sources for information distribution, such as 511 or roadside electronic message boards.