Southbound Eagle Road right turn lane from Eastbound Chinden closed during construction

Construction near the intersection of Chinden and Eagle Road

The dedicated right turn lane to Eagle Road from eastbound Chinden is closed during construction. Drivers are able to turn right to southbound Eagle Road from the thru lane.

This lane configuration will allow crews to construct new roadway on the south side of Chinden. Commuters should expect increased delays and use alternate routes when possible.

Additionally, Locust Grove at its intersection with Chinden will be closed the night of Friday, May 29th. Traffic will be detoured on McMillan Road to Meridian and Eagle roads.

For information specific to this one-mile section please visit https://itdprojects.org/chindenwestlocusttoeagle/

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.

Westbound I-84 to close east of Mtn Home for control burn operation Tuesday

BLM fire crew conducts controlled burn along a highway

The Idaho Transportation Department will close a section of Interstate 84 east of Mountain Home tomorrow morning, allowing BLM crews to conduct a controlled burn of vegetation along the highway.

The closure will be for westbound traffic only between Exit 112 and Exit 90. Traffic will be detoured off I-84 at Exit 112 (Hammett Hill Rd.), travel on Old Highway 30, and rejoin the Interstate at Exit 90 (I-84B in Mountain Home).

“We definitely want to thank ITD for being a great partner every year,” said Jared Jablonski, Fire Information Officer for the Boise District BLM. “We have spring meetings every year and we work together on mitigating fire risk along the highway.”

Check out this video of a controlled burn from earlier this year along Idaho Highway 51.

 

ITD has partnered with the Boise District Bureau of Land Management on vegetation control since 2007. Since that time, the annual number of fire starts along this section of the Interstate has dropped significantly.

“The savings to the taxpayer from this activity are considerable,” said Carl Vaughn, ITD foreman out of Mountain Home. “Fewer starts means we don’t have to close the road, firefighters can be deployed elsewhere, and public and private land adjacent to the Interstate are spared the damage of catastrophic wildfires. It’s also helped reduce animal strikes along the Interstate.”

The BLM regularly conducts controlled burns along Southwest Idaho highways during the spring. There is a narrow window when temperatures are low and new vegetation is greening up where crews can conduct controlled burns in Idaho’s desert steppe. The spring activity pays dividends during peak fire season.

“When the summertime rolls around, roadside vegetation really does become a problem, as far as unnecessary human-caused fires along the roadway,” said Jablonski. “The more fuel we can get rid of in a controlled setting, the more benefit it is to us.”

ITD and the BLM remind travelers to be fire wise and make choices to prevent wildfires this year. Two common causes of man-made wildfires are tow chains dragging on the road and sparking or hot cars parking in grassy areas. Ensure tow chains are elevated off the ground and avoid parking in areas where exhaust pipes or a catalytic converter is contacting dry grass.

Chinden (U.S. 20/26) reduced to one lane at Locust Grove for utility installation

back hoe, loader, and semi truck near the intersection of Locust Grove and Chinden

Chinden Boulevard (US 20/26) at its intersection with Locust Grove Road, will be reduced to one lane with flagger control, Tuesday and Wednesday this week (April 21 and 22) between 9 am and 3 pm, while crews install underground utilities. Traffic will resume to two-lanes, one in each direction, after 3 pm each day.

Significantly reduced traffic in the area has provided the opportunity to perform this work during daylight hours, and expedite the overall project schedule. Traffic on Locust Grove will be open in both directions, controlled by flaggers through the intersection.

Please visit www.ITDProjects.org/ChindenWest for up-to-date information and opportunities to participate.

National Work Zone Awareness Week from April 20-24 reminds drivers to continue to watch out for work zones during the COVID-19 pandemic. Construction and maintenance operations continue and are essential to Idaho’s response to allow for the essential delivery of goods, medical equipment and other important services throughout the state and the nation.

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.

 

Food trucks to serve truck drivers at Idaho rest areas

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

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.

ITD increases frequency of cleaning at major rest areas

Rest areas will stay open to support the delivery of goods and services through Idaho and the nation, with key rest areas to be cleaned more frequently to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

“Rest areas provide an essential service as a respite for truckers,” said Nestor Fernandez, ITD’s mobility services engineer. “While we’re seeing fewer passenger vehicles on the highway, freight services are in full tilt. We have heard from our partners in the trucking industry that they need these areas open, and we are working to meet that need.”

Rest areas at Midvale Hill on US-95 south of Midvale, Blacks Creek on I-84 east of Boise and Huetter on I-90 west of Coeur d’Alene will be cleaned every two hours with a focus on commonly touched surfaces like door handles.

All rest areas are cleaned two times a day, but due to high usage at these locations they will be cleaned more often. ITD is working with vendors responsible for cleaning rest areas to make sure they have the resources they need.

The rest area on US-12 at Lolo Pass on the Idaho-Montana border, which is jointly managed with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), is currently closed.

“Out of an abundance of caution for our employees and the public, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests has made the decision to close the Lolo Pass Visitor Center, including the restrooms, until further notice,” said Jennifer Becar, public affairs specialist with the USFS. “This decision was made in order to best protect the health and safety of our employees, volunteers, and the public, and is consistent with the forest’s shift to only offering virtual services at offices and other facilities at this time.”

For more information on other USFS closures, visit www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater.

Another rest area on eastbound I-84 on the Idaho-Oregon border near Fruitland continues to be closed due to issues with the septic system.

The department is also exploring options to allow food trucks to offer services at remote rest areas to support truck drivers as they continue to deliver goods across the United States.

To check the status of specific rest areas, visit 511.idaho.gov or download the app.

Idaho Highway 21 re-opens after earthquake damage closure

Two loaders clear an avalanche slide

ITD crews have finished cleaning up tons of rock, dirt and snow on Idaho Highway 21 between Lowman and Stanley one week after a record 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck the area.

The earthquake triggered several avalanches and landslides in Canyon Creek, an 11-mile corridor west of Stanley. Large boulders shaken loose dropped hundreds of feet to the highway, causing damage to the roadway. Aftershocks and the threat of additional landslides kept crews out of the area until Sunday, April 5.

“The earthquake was the second-largest on record in Idaho,” said Bill Nicholson, who leads the Avalanche Crew in Lowman. “I’ve been here thirteen years and never seen so much rock and earth hit the highway. Thankfully, we have a great partnership with USGS and the Geophysics Department at Boise State. They kept us updated on conditions, which helped us understand the situation and know when it was safe to get back in and start cleaning up.”

Maintenance crews from Lowman and Stanley attacked the clean-up from both sides. In just four days, they removed the debris and patched up the road before re-opening the highway to traffic.

“The community of Stanley sees Highway 21 as an important connection,” said Stanley shed foreman Brad Lynch. “It’s the most direct route to Boise and the Treasure Valley. During this pandemic, it was a concern having the route closed. I know my neighbors will breathe easier knowing we punched through and opened it up.”

In total, operators removed an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of debris from the highway. Several boulders were too large to be removed as-is. In such cases, crews used the “Boulder Buster” to break the boulders into a more manageable size.

“It was a great team effort,” said Brian Inwards, foreman for the Lowman shed. “The whole operation went incredibly well. Everyone pitched in and made it happen.”

ITD warns the traveling public on this corridor or other mountain highways of the increased risk of seasonal rockfall. Please drive with caution. Additional repairs to damaged guardrail will be completed this summer.

Adopt a Highway program suspended during COVID-19 pandemic

ITD truck loaded with bags of trash from an Adopt a Highway pickup

The Idaho Transportation Department has suspended the Adopt a Highway and other volunteer programs to focus on essential services and promote community safety.

Under the program, volunteers adopt a section of highway for two years at a time and commit to removing litter twice a year. These sections are marked by special white and blue signs on the highway.

The department provides volunteers with safety vests, trash bags and road signs but decided to temporarily suspend the program in late March. There were concerns about encouraging large groups to gather and the ability to clean shared items between uses.

Groups are being notified via email and mail of the suspension. Organizations will not lose their adopted sections if they do not meet the required number of pickups this year.

“We appreciate the willingness of our fellow Idahoans to keep our state beautiful by picking up trash but unfortunately have to temporarily halt the program,” said Judi Conner, the volunteer services coordinator. “For the time being, drivers should expect to see more trash as ITD and our volunteers follow guidance to keep our communities safe.”

Other volunteer programs that allow nonprofit organizations to offer free refreshments at rest areas or offer educational presentations to schools have also been put on pause.

ITD aims to support volunteer services again once cleaning supplies are readily available and guidance from health experts changes.

More information about volunteer programs and contact information for program coordinators may be found at itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce.

Idaho Highway 52 pavement rehabilitation in Emmett begins in mid-April

intersection of ID-52 and ID-16 in Emmett Idaho

Reconstruction of Idaho Highway 52 (Washington Avenue) through downtown Emmett will begin in mid-April.

The current pavement has reached the end of its service life. The pavement rehabilitation includes milling the old road surface, replacing it with new pavement, and upgrading ADA (Americans with Disabilities) facilities, including crosswalks and adding a sidewalk in front of KT Lanes Bowling Alley.

Construction will start near the intersection of ID-52 and ID-16 near South Boise Avenue, and continue on Washington Avenue to approximately Carson Street near the Payette River. It is scheduled to be complete in early summer.

During construction, expect the following:

  • Work will occur between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. up to seven days a week.
  • Businesses will have at least one access point throughout the project.
  • Drivers should anticipate a temporary gravel road surface during construction activities.
  • No on-street parking will be permitted in the work zone.
  • Sidewalk access and pedestrian detours will be signed.

Flaggers may also guide motorists through the work zone during some phases of construction. 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 208.334.8363, email phoebe.wallace@itd.idaho.gov, or visit the project website at itdprojects.org/id52repave.