US-26 in Idaho officially named POW-MIA Memorial Highway during ceremony and sign unveiling in Carey

Image of US-26 POW-MIA Memorial Highway Sign Locations

Idaho legislators, representatives from the National League of POW-MIA Families, community members and the Idaho Transportation Department will officially celebrate the naming of US-26 in Idaho as the “POW-MIA Memorial Highway” at 2 p.m. Wednesday, October 6, 2021, at the Carey City Park – Boyd Stocking Pavilion.

During the 2021 Idaho legislative session, HB132aa sponsored by Representative Scott Syme and Senator Patti Anne Lodge, formally designated and named US-26 in Idaho, the POW-MIA Memorial Highway. The bill unanimously passed both chambers, respectively, and was signed by Governor Little in April.

Idaho is home to eight soldiers designated as MIA and the City of Carey happens to be home to one of those individuals. Jon Michael Sparks was a helicopter pilot for the US Army and was lost in Long Binh Province, Laos, on March 19, 1971.

US-26 in Idaho runs from the Oregon border to the Wyoming border. The highway naming is part of a nationwide effort to designate US-26 as the POW-MIA Memorial Highway from coast to coast, with several other states participating over the years as well.

There are 10 locations across US-26 in southern Idaho where new POW-MIA Memorial Highway signs will be installed.

ITD seeks feedback on draft Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan update

As the Idaho Transportation Department updates its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Transition Plan, the public is encouraged to learn more about plans to invest nearly $35 million into projects and services over the next 15 years.

ADA Transition is the process of eliminating accessibility barriers to existing pedestrian infrastructure on the state highway system. It also helps identify programs that fund improvements through a coordinated effort with local highway districts and other municipalities.

In an effort to gather feedback about the plan, ITD will host an online survey as part of a 30-day public comment period that begins Sept. 17. The survey can be accessed at itd.idaho.gov/planning by clicking on the link. The survey is available 24 hours a day.

Staff will also hold a virtual public information meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 6:00 p.m. Mountain time. 
You can find the meeting link posted online at itd.idaho.gov/planning or by emailing ADA@itd.idaho.gov.

Comments and feedback shared during this public involvement phase will be incorporated into a draft ADA Transition Plan, that will become official after review and approval by the Federal Highway Administration and Idaho Transportation Board later this fall.

For questions or to learn more about ADA Transition, please email ADA@itd.idaho.gov or call (208)332-7823.

Middleton City Council considers removal of future highway alternate route

Four lane highway

On Wednesday, September 15, the Middleton City Council will consider a revision to its Comprehensive Plan regarding the future Highway 44 that will have ripple effects for transportation far beyond the city limits.

For the last two decades ITD has partnered with City of Middleton leaders to develop an alternate route for the highway that would be constructed to the south of the current roadway. The City Council will consider eliminating the alternate route from its comprehensive plan and approve new development that would build on top of the open space currently slated for the future highway.

The future alternate route was shared at two public meetings in 2019. You can see the click on the links to see the West Half and East Half of the proposed route.

What happens to the future of the highway?

Graphic: Existing traffic, ten thousand trips per day. 2045 no-build traffic, twenty-four thousand trips per day.

The last two decades of work have laid the groundwork for a transportation network that can support the extreme growth in Middleton, Star, and Eagle.

The growth projections for the Middleton area, which are somewhat conservative, suggest 24,000 cars will drive on the highway by the year 2045. Today, the daily trip count is around 10,000. Congestion already experienced will only get worse. As highway congestion increases, typically the number of crashes also increases.

ITD’s Mission is “Your Safety. Your Mobility. Your Economic Opportunity.” These three pillars of the Department go hand-in-hand. Fewer crashes keeps people moving, energizing commerce. The alternate route for Highway 44 would achieve these goals while accommodating for the forecasted growth in the area.

Take away the option of a future alternate route, and what happens to highway traffic is uncertain. ITD has looked at a couple options at a high level. The first option is to keep the highway as-is.

Graphic: significant delay on highway 44 in 2045 no-build scenario

The biggest “pro” of that option is the existing buildings downtown will not be impacted. The biggest con is pretty obvious – there’s no way the existing three-lane highway will effectively move 24,000 cars a day. ITD’s projected level of service for downtown intersections has nearly all of them seeing excessive delay times. In some circumstances, it could take you more than five minutes to get onto the highway from a local road.

The second option would be to add capacity to the existing highway to move more vehicles. This option is not without its downsides. We’ll share three big ones.

Impacts to existing businesses and land use

The first is the available space for the lanes. Near the fire station in particular, there is not enough room to add more lanes. In order to fit everything in, ITD will likely need to purchase existing buildings and demolish them. A preliminary scan of the total impacts of a widened highway suggests 76 different properties will be negatively impacted.

Graphic: property impacts of 100' for highway expansion
Possible property impacts to accommodate 100 feet for additional highway lanes.

Impacts to access

The second pain point comes with the existing number of roads and driveways accessing highway 44. Every access point introduces conflicts between vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists using the roadway. Transportation engineering reduces these conflict by removing accesses or restricting the movements in and out of those access points.

In order to promote safety and mobility on the existing highway alignment, ITD will likely need to install median curbs, restricting left turns on and off the highway. Similar action was taken on Eagle Road. The diagram below provides a sense of what that means for local travel options.

Graphic: access restrictions to most local roads in downtown Middleton
Similar to Eagle Road, future access on ID-44 could be restricted to right-in, right-out.

Delay for improvements

A third downside is the delay this will force on any improvements to the highway in Middleton. The process to achieve environmental clearance has taken nearly two decades already. Should the alternate route be removed from Middleton’s Comprehensive Plan, the clock on those efforts will be reset.

Environmental clearance is needed to get federal funding for transportation improvements. Pushing back that clearance another decade or two means the highway in Middleton won’t qualify for those dollars, ITD’s biggest bucket of money. Meanwhile, growth and congestion will continue.

The Council Decision

ITD has partnered with the City of Middleton on the future of Highway 44 for more than two decades. We will continue to do so. The Department strongly recommends the Council continues the City’s historic support for the alternate route and preserve the corridor in the Comprehensive Plan.

Regardless of the Council’s decision, we are committed to provide the best customer service we can. Our goal in sharing this information with the public is to bring clarity to a complicated process and to understand the downstream consequences of a decision. The folks at ITD are your friends, neighbors, and relatives. We want to see the community of Middleton grow and thrive. It is our belief that open dialogue and the best information will bring about the best results for us all.

ID-55 project between Smiths Ferry and Rainbow Bridge to resume road closures after Labor Day

Work on Idaho Highway 55 near Smiths Ferry will shift to a fall closure schedule starting Wednesday, September 8, after the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Travelers can expect ID-55 to be closed Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. due to controlled rock blasting. Outside of these hours, one lane of the highway will be open to alternating one-way traffic. This schedule is anticipated to continue through mid-November, when crews will pause work and fully reopen the road for the winter.

Drivers should keep in mind, the full road closures can create a buildup of traffic in the afternoon, which flaggers need to fully clear from each end of the work zone. This can extend wait times immediately when the road reopens at 2:00 p.m. Crews ask for drivers’ patience and to plan accordingly when traveling to and from Valley County.

The project, scheduled to be completed by fall 2022, will soon begin the process of building retaining wall on the riverside, pinning back rock, and straightening the roadway. Watch a video from the work zone below.

 

“We have managed to accomplish a great deal of work on this project so far,” said Alex Deduck, ITD Project Manager. “To date we have excavated about 100,000 cubic yards of material which allows us to expand the shoulders by four feet in the canyon. Ultimately, this project will make passage in the canyon safer for drivers.”

ID-55 is one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state of Idaho. In 2020 alone, ITD recorded approximately 1.5 million vehicles driving on ID-55 and predicts 2021 will see similar, if not higher, numbers.

“Our goal with any project we take on is to ensure drivers are safe,” said Vince Trimboli, ITD Chief Communication Officer. “If we can reduce the risk for travelers on our roads, especially on these curvy mountain roads, then we have done our job well.”

To read more about the project and sign up for updates and alerts, visit the project website: itdprojects.org/ID55smithsferry

ITD to meet with freight stakeholders

A truck climbs a hill

The Idaho Transportation Department will meet with freight stakeholders across the state this September to collect feedback and update its freight plan.

The Idaho State Freight Plan identifies how ITD will strategically invest state and federal funding in infrastructure to increase the safety, capacity and efficiency of the freight system for the benefit of the Idaho economy.

The document analyzes the needs and issues in Idaho, details policies and strategies to overcome them, identifies critical freight corridors and lists projects to be funded. These projects are supported by approximately $10 million of federal funding each year.

Freight stakeholders utilize infrastructure on a daily basis for basic operations and produce, ship/receive or transport the majority of goods within the state. Such industries include: agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, mining, utilities, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade and transportation and warehousing. Those who would like to participate in the process should contact Scott Luekenga at (208) 334-8057 or scott.luekenga@itd.idaho.gov to get details on the available times and locations.

Participants will be guided through a 30-minute survey based on their industry. They are invited to engage in person at the following events:

  • Lewiston on Sept. 2
  • Blackfoot on Sept. 16
  • Twin Falls on Sept. 21

Virtual opportunities will also be accommodated through the end of September. Another round of public comment is expected in spring 2022 to review the updated plan.

New landslide database provides tool for project development and hazard mitigation

The Idaho Geological Survey (IGS) is helping the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) learn more from landslides in the Gem State. A new statewide inventory database of landslide and rock fall hazards released by IGS in late June will assist ITD, emergency managers, and planners with forecasting and hazard mitigation by identifying problematic hot spots.

The project was sponsored by ITD’s Division of Highways – Construction and Materials team and funded through ITD’s Research Program.

The inventory contains more than 2,400 landslide entries spanning from prehistoric to active events. It’s posted on the IGS website and can be accessed through an interactive webmap service.

The information was also added to ITD’s IPLAN online ArcGIS platform. The database includes attributes to maintain MSE retaining wall locations and risk factors to evaluate the condition of the wall, as well as attributes for rock fall risk, so ITD districts can assess the problematic areas that could cause road closures.

Data were compiled from historic archives, information provided by ITD geotechnical staff and district geologists, unpublished IGS field observations, analysis of LiDAR imagery, remote sensing, satellite images, and newly mapped landslides.

“The study represents a live catalog of mass movements across the state with a particular focus on transportation corridors and urban areas,” said State Geologist and IGS Director Claudio Berti. “The database is a tool for documenting and assessing slope stability hazards. It is not intended to predict future events, but to document known events and show broad patterns of occurrence.”

This new database replaces the last inventory published in 1991, a static map no longer suitable for modern digital analyses. The 2021 version will be kept up to date as new events occur or new information becomes available.

Landslide problem areas in Idaho include: Bonners Ferry, Clearwater River Basin, Horseshoe Bend, Boise Foothills, Hagerman, U.S. 95 between Pollock and Lucile, and U.S. 26 between Swan Valley and the Wyoming border. Geologic characteristics of the bedrock, fractures, systems, precipitation, regional hydrogeology, vegetation, wildfires, and steepness of hillslopes are all contributing factors in landslide initiation and development.

You can also learn more by reading the full research report linked here.

Idaho Transportation Department now taking comments for all upcoming projects

Cars cross Lake Pend Oreille on the Long Bridge

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is asking for input on the just-released draft Idaho Transportation Investment Program (ITIP). The 2022-2028 ITIP is a seven-year master plan of the state’s transportation improvement projects. Everyone is encouraged to participate starting in July.

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 throughout Idaho are:

  • Bridge replacement and adding a travel lane on west bound I-86 in Pocatello.
  • Interchange improvements to the I-15 Exit 113 interchange in Idaho Falls including constructing roundabouts.
  • Full road reconstruction on ID-33 from the US-20/ID-33 interchange to Newdale.
  • Replacement of the structure at the I-84/ID-50 Junction (Exit 182).
  • Replacement of Yankee Fork Bridge on ID-75 in Custer County.
  • Widening ID-44 from Star Road to Linder Road.
  • Extending ID-16 from US-20/26 to I-84.
  • Redesign of the interchange at I-90 and ID-41, with construction planned to start in 2023.
  • Study to begin this fall to examine potential expansion of US-95 to four lanes from Moscow to north of the Mineral Mountain Rest Area.

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

ITIP – Comments
Attn: Office of Communication
P.O. Box 7129
Boise, ID  83707

Paper copies of the ITIP will be provided upon request by contacting the Idaho Transportation Department (208) 334-8119.

All comments will be reviewed, incorporated into the ITIP where appropriate, and responses will be sent in September 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’s Freight Program seeks representatives to help shape freight’s future

Help shape Idaho’s freight future! The Idaho Transportation Department is seeking representatives to serve on the Freight Advisory Committee. The group is made of six members, one representing each of ITD’s administrative districts.

  • The individual selected for District 1 will represent Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai, and Shoshone counties
  • The individual selected for District 2 will represent Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis, and Nez Perce counties
  • The individual selected for District 3 will represent Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Washington, and Valley counties
  • The individual selected for District 4 will Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, and Twin Falls counties
  • The individual selected for District 5 will represent Bannock, Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Franklin, Oneida, and Power counties
  • The individual selected for District 6 will represent Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Teton, and Madison counties

The Freight Advisory Committee (FAC) was created to advise ITD on issues related to freight transportation in Idaho. FAC members gather and speak on behalf of the following industries:

  • Rail, Highway/Trucking
  • Aeronautics
  • Port/Barge
  • Agriculture
  • Natural Resource
  • Manufacturing/Retail
  • Carrier/Shipping
  • Freight Logistics/Warehousing

Applications for FAC representatives in each of the six districts will be accepted June 21 – July 21, 2021. A 15-day public comment period on the candidates will then follow. Find the application form and instructions at itd.idaho.gov/freight under the Freight Program and Get Involved tabs, or also linked here.

For more information about FAC or the application, contact ITD Freight Program Manager Scott Luekenga at (208) 334-8057 or by email at scott.luekenga@itd.idaho.gov

Travel advisory issued on Idaho Highway 55 for anticipated high traffic volumes

Intersection of ID-55 and Banks-Lowman Road

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Southwest Idaho Office is issuing a travel advisory for motorists planning to use Idaho Highway 55 from Horseshoe Bend to McCall this weekend as it predicts heavy traffic volumes on the two-lane highway.

Several summer events are scheduled Thursday through Sunday in Valley and Boise Counties. Combined with the newly-announced Juneteenth National Independence Day holiday, Father’s Day recreation activities and good weather, the department anticipates a high number of vehicles using ID-55. The Department has coordinated with local event organizers and law enforcement to promote safety and mobility during the weekend.

ITD will station flaggers at the intersection of ID-55 and the Banks-Lowman Road Sunday to help manage traffic.

“We have worked with our partners in law enforcement and the business community to do the best we can to manage what we expect will be a lot of vehicles on the highway this weekend,” said Caleb Lakey, District Administrator for ITD’s Southwest Idaho Office. “There’s a good chance we will have some times where the highway is at capacity and motorists will experience delay.”

ITD advises motorists to anticipate delays during the historical peak travel times at ID-55 and the Banks-Lowman Road, which is 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Suggested alternate routes include U.S. 95 and Idaho Highway 21. Be prepared and make sure your vehicle is well-maintained. Fill your tank with plenty of gas, pack extra water and snacks, and consider a restroom stop before entering the Payette River Canyon.

Several construction projects will be active on U.S. 95 and ID-55 this summer. Work will be suspended Friday through Sunday on all ID-55 projects. For more information, visit ITD’s news blog.

Idaho Highway 19 pavement rehabilitation in Homedale begins next week

highway in rural town

Reconstruction of Idaho Highway 19 (Idaho Avenue) through downtown Homedale will begin the week of June 14.

ID-19 in Homdalde
ID-19 in Homedale

The pavement rehabilitation includes milling the old road surface, replacing it with new pavement, and upgrading ADA (Americans with Disabilities) facilities, including crosswalks and pedestrian crossings.

Construction will occur on ID-19 between approximately N. 4th Street East and Railroad Ave. It is scheduled to be complete in late summer.

During construction, expect the following:

  • Work will occur between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week.
  • Business access will be maintained.
  • Drivers should anticipate a temporary gravel road surface during construction activities.
  • Two lanes of traffic will be open during construction, though some detours or flagging are possible.
  • Sidewalk access and pedestrian detours will be signed.
  • Some work will be noisy.

Drivers are encouraged to slow down and pay attention to crews working in the area.

For questions or to sign up for construction updates, please call 208.387.7072, or visit the project website at ITDprojects.org/ID19HomedaleRebuild