How Idaho drivers prepare for winter, even first timers

A sign welcomes drivers to Idaho on Lookout Pass on I-90.

“You should change the speed limit signs when it’s snowing so we know what’s safe.”

That’s what one driver told an officer after she was pulled over on a winter night for going 70 mph on the freeway in black ice conditions.

If you’re not used to driving in the winter, this might seem like a good idea. But in truth, safety is the responsibility of every driver, regardless of the weather. And being prepared for winter driving requires a combination of experience and education.

In Coeur d’Alene, the police department remembers that night as one spent driving from crash scene to crash scene, checking for injuries without even the time to prepare crash reports.

“It seemed like every 100 yards there would be another crash,” said Nick Knoll, an officer on the traffic team at CDA PD.

Since experience only comes with time, many local police departments focus on educational programs to help new winter drivers. Knoll has been with the department since 2002, and since 2016, he has taught winter driving classes for those either looking for a refresher course or an introduction into North Idaho winters.

His class can be summarized in four main points, all of which provide great advice for new winter drivers:

  • Don’t drive during storms if you don’t have to – ask yourself if that trip to the store can wait.
  • Pay attention – winter driving conditions can be unforgiving of even the smallest mistakes.
  • Practice – just like you did in high school, find an empty parking lot and practice.
  • Prepare your vehicle – snow tires are strongly recommended.

“We teach drivers to drive what is safe for their abilities and their vehicles,” Knoll said.

More than 2,000 drivers have taken the course, a two-hour event offered October through November.

“We get about 65 drivers each class,” Knoll said. “Our audience varies in terms of age and gender, but each time roughly 90 percent of the class is about to experience winter driving for the first time.”

According to Knoll, people who take the class are most surprised by the difference snow tires can make. Officers play this video to show the difference, and this year Les Schwab donated ice scrapers to all participants, raffled off two emergency car kits and offered a 10 percent discount on snow tires.

“We get a lot of engagement after class, and drivers tell us we make winter seem less daunting,” Knoll said.

The classes in Coeur d’Alene are free, with multiple sessions held each fall in the evenings and on weekends. Next year call the Coeur d’Alene Police Department at (208) 769-2320 to sign up, or if you would like to teach a similar course, contact Knoll for more information.

Until then, drive for conditions, stay engaged and check the newly improved 511.idaho.gov so you know before you go.

Knoll (far right) with fellow officer recognizing a sober driver.

Safety Service Patrol on I-84 showcases its value in first week of operations

It’s Day 2 of operations for the Safety Service Patrol in the I-84 Corridor and the service is showing its value as it cleared a three-vehicle crash quickly during Monday’s morning commute.

The crash happened during the peak drive time on eastbound I-84 near the Northside Blvd. Exit. Patrol driver Craig Parker came upon the crash shortly after it occurred and was the first on scene. Parker quickly contacted emergency services to get the full response rolling.

“Two of the three vehicles were able to drive off the highway and get to a safe location out of traffic,” said Parker. “I got the third attached to my tow truck and pulled it to the Jackson’s parking lot. ISP and a second tow truck were already waiting to take care of the rest of the incident.”

Thanks to the presence of the Patrol, traffic flow returned to normal quicker than normal. Parker says from crash to hand-off, the whole thing took less than an hour – the impact to the traveling public was even less than that.

“If this crash was treated normally, traffic would have been backed up for at least an hour and a half,” said ITD Emergency Response Manager Neal Murphy. “The time it would take for someone to contact law enforcement, then a tow company – the tow truck would have been stuck in traffic on the way to the crash – this was a perfect example of why we started the Safety Service Patrol.”

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

ITD introduces new Safety Service Patrol for I-84 construction zone in Nampa

A Tow Truck

The Idaho Transportation Department is launching a safety patrol and courtesy towing service on Friday to assist disabled vehicles and keep traffic moving safely through the Interstate 84 construction zone in Nampa.

The Safety Service Patrol will operate Monday-Friday during the morning and evening commutes:

– 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. between the Karcher/Midland and Garrity interchanges, and
– 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. between the Ten Mile and Karcher/Midland interchanges.

Disabled cars, trucks or motorcycles will be towed to the Jacksons parking lot near the Franklin Boulevard Interchange (1407 N. Franklin Blvd.). Motorists will be responsible to arrange to retrieve their vehicles within 24 hours.

In the event of a crash, emergency services and police must first render medical assistance and gather information for an investigation before the scene can be cleared. Vehicles will be relocated to the Jackson’s lot as soon as that work is complete.

“Our top priority is to keep the I-84 work zone safe for everyone. Even a minor incident, like running out of gas, is likely to cause delay or create an unsafe situation for other people on the road,” said Mark Campbell, ITD’s GARVEE construction project manager. “The Safety Service Patrol will work closely with our state communications office and Idaho State Police to monitor road conditions, report incidents and clear disabled vehicles from the roadway as quickly as possible.”

Although the Safety Service Patrol will be out actively searching for disabled vehicles, drivers can still call 911 or *ISP in an emergency.

Idaho’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to move into the next lane for tow trucks, incident response vehicles and emergency personnel.

For more information about I-84 construction in Canyon County, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast or visit itdprojects.org/84corridor.

Ground depression prompts partial closure on Myrtle Street in downtown Boise

Map of Myrtle Closure

11:45 a.m. Oct. 8

During boring operations along Myrtle Street in downtown Boise, a depression formed in a travel lane, prompting a partial closure of the road.

Currently, the right-most lane of Myrtle Street is closed between 2nd and 4th Street. ITD crews are on site investigating the situation and developing a response. Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are urged to use caution while traveling in the area.

Updates will be posted here as additional information comes in.

2:00 p.m. Oct. 8

Crews investigating the depression in the road have found the cause to be a void in the earth beneath the roadway. This void is estimated to be 3-4 feet deep, and 8-14 feet wide, or about the width of a single travel lane.

The boring work being done in the area is to relocate utilities. Idaho Power received a permit from ITD to complete the work.

The contractor (Idaho Power) will rip up the road surface to survey the extent of the  void. Generally speaking, the next steps for the contractor will be to fill in the void with appropriate material and repave the roadway.

4:00 p.m. Oct. 8

Crews have opened up the road to survey the extent of the void. It ended up being less severe than anticipated. The void was no deeper than 18 inches and extended 14 feet wide. The contractor will spend the rest of the day filling in the void and laying a temporary asphalt patch to restore the surface of the road to a smooth driving surface. ITD has directed this work to be complete by 4:00 a.m. October 9th.

ITD will work with the contractor to complete extensive repairs and lay durable asphalt down at a later date.

9:00 a.m. Oct. 9 (final update)

The contractor worked overnight to repair the damage and patch the road with temporary asphalt. The lane was open before the morning rush hour. The contractor is working with ITD to plan a permanent repair at a later date with minimal impact to traffic.

Property owners approve three of four proposed noise walls near I-84 expansion project in Canyon County

The Idaho TransportatioMap of proposed noise walls in Caldwelln Department has collected the votes and is making plans for three new noise walls along Interstate 84 as a part of a multi-year study of improvements in Canyon County.

ITD proposed four locations for noise walls. Those locations and the results of votes from those who would benefit from them are:

  • Along eastbound I-84 adjacent to the Indian Creek Estates – approved
  • Along the westbound on ramp at Franklin Road – approved
  • Along westbound I-84 between Centennial Way and 10th Ave. – approved
  • Along eastbound I-84 between Centennial Way and 10th Ave. – not approved

ITD invites members of the community to ask questions about the project on Oct. 17 at the Caldwell Best Western (908 Specht Ave.) anytime between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

“The decision whether or not to build noise walls belongs to those adjacent owners and residents who are shown to be affected by future traffic noise,” said ITD Transportation Program Manager Amy Schroeder. “ITD’s role is to model the change in noise levels to determine who is a benefited receptor, follow state and federal noise policies, and facilitate the decision-making process,.”

A noise analysis was conducted earlier this year to determine the increase in traffic noise from adding a third lane in each direction on I-84. The next step was to confirm whether noise walls would reduce sound by 5 decibels or more. Human speech ranges from 50 to 65 decibels; traffic noise ranges from 70 to 80 decibels.

The noise study also identified specific properties, or “receptors” that would benefit from mitigation measures such as a wall. These property owners were invited to vote on the walls through an extensive balloting process in July and August 2019. View a map of the receptors.

For a noise wall to be approved, ITD policy states that more than 50 percent of affected property owners must vote “yes.” If the property owner vote is 50 percent or fewer, then affected residents are invited to vote. Resident votes must be greater than 75 percent to overturn the owners’ “no” vote.

The walls will be designed using concrete panels between 12 feet and 16 feet tall.

ITD is investing more than $330 million into Interstate 84 in Canyon County over the next several years. More information about the I-84 expansion is available at itdprojects.org/84corridor and on the Drive Idaho podcast (available on all podcast players).

Graphical display of ITD's noise process

Interim signal to be constructed on Idaho Highway 55 at Brookside Lane

Intersection of ID-55 and Brookside currently without a signal

The Idaho Transportation Department has approved construction of a interim traffic signal at the intersection of Idaho Highway 55 and Brookside Lane to accomodate the Dry Creek Ranch development.

The signal, which will be paid for by the developer Boise Hunter Homes (BHH), is the next step in the development of Dry Creek Ranch. The Department is permitting this signal for the time being to accommodate the vehicles accessing Brookside Lane currently and in the near future. As the development continues to grow, ITD is requiring BHH to construct additional improvements and remove the signal. A similar agreement is in place for the Avimor development to the north.

“ITD’s long-range vision for this section of ID-55 requires the corridor to be free of signals north of Beacon Light,” said Amy Revis, District Engineer of ITD’s Southwest Idaho offices. “We often phase implementation of improvements to meet current and near-term traffic demand, allowing the development to generate revenues which can fund the ultimate mitigation improvements.”

ITD has an agreement with BHH and Ada County that improvements to ID-55 must be constructed at certain stages of growth. This is measured by the number of trips into the development during the evening rush hour. ITD collects the trip data annually. Currently, there are 100 trips per hour.

  • At 550 trips per hour, the developer must construct an additional travel lane in each direction on ID-55 from Beacon Light Road to a few hundred feet north of Brookside Ln.
  • At 1300 trips per hour, the developer must remove the signal and construct an alternate intersection that allows free-flowing traffic at 55 mph.

With the approval from ITD, BHH is now cleared to construct the signal. No exact timeline for construction has been provided to the Department.

ITD collaborates with developers and local governments to find balanced solutions that achieve the Department’s mission of “Your Safety. Your Mobility. Your Economic Opportunity.”

Intersection closures and girder placement on ID-55 in Marsing Oct. 1, 2019

crane places girders for bridge

Several intersections on Idaho 55 will be closed beginning Oct. 1. Construction crews are placing concrete gutters along the roadway. Access at each intersection’s will remain closed for 2-3 days (weather permitting) while the concrete hardens.

What to expect:

  • All work will be done during daytime hours.
  • Work is anticipated to take approximately two weeks to complete (weather permitting).
  • Work will be conducted between Bruneau Hwy. to Edwards St. on the north; Bruneau Hwy. to 9th St. on the south.
  • Side streets will be closed to all traffic while work is being done and while concrete hardens. Closures will be staggered.
  • Major intersections will be reduced down to one lane, but will remain open at all times. Steel plates will be placed over the gutter work while concrete hardens.

Flaggers will assist with the gutter operations at the major intersections.

The contractor will be placing the next set of girders tonight, Oct. 1. What to expect:

  • ID-55 and the Snake River Bridge will be closed for up to 30 minutes each time one of the girders are being placed.
  • Sunny Slope Road southbound will be reduced to one lane between Lowell and True roads. The lanes will be restricted from noon to 2:00 am each night to stage the bridge girders.
  • Work will generally be done between 10:00 pm and 2:00 am.
  • The work will be noisy.

I-84 in Nampa will be detoured overnight Sept. 16-19 for work on Karcher Overpass

Karcher Overpass under Construction

Interstate 84 will be closed overnight between the Karcher/Midland and Northside interchanges on Monday, Sept. 16 through Thursday, Sept. 19. The closures will allow crews to safely remove the wooden forms that temporarily supported the new bridge deck this summer.

  • Westbound I-84 will be closed for two nights – Sept. 16 and Sept. 17. Each night I-84 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Eastbound I-84 will be closed for two nights – Sept. 18 and Sept. 19. Each night I-84 will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

During the four overnight closures, motorists will exit I-84 at Karcher/Midland or Northside and follow a detour along Karcher Road. Flaggers will direct traffic. View the detour map.

Lane restrictions and flaggers will also be in place on the Northside Boulevard between the ramps each night while crews begin to work on the new bridge.

The new Karcher Overpass is on schedule to re-open later this fall. Reconstruction of the Northside Interchange has begun and will continue through early 2021.

For more information about the reconstruction of I-84 in Canyon County, visit itdprojects.org/84Corridor. To receive construction updates; text 84corridor to 555888. “Drive Idaho,” ITD’s new podcast series on all things I-84 in Canyon County, is available for download on Spotify and Apple Podcast and other major podcast sharing sites.

ID-55 Snake River Bridge overnight closures during girder placement

ID-55 bridge with american flag in foreground

There will be temporary closures on Idaho Highway 55 at the Snake River Bridge in Marsing while girders are placed for the new bridge.

Girders are large horizontal beams that support the surface of the bridge. Each girder weighs 141,000 pounds and is 148 feet long. Current plans call for girders to be placed overnight on Tuesday Sept. 3, Thursday Sept. 5, Friday Sept. 13, and Monday Sept. 16. This is subject to change.

Sunny Slope Rd. southbound will be reduced to one lane between Lowell and True road. The lanes will be restricted from noon to 2:00 am each night to stage the bridge girders. Placement of the girders will generally occur between the hours of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am. Traffic will be stopped for up to thirty minutes while each girder is placed. Each night up to three girders will be placed.

This work is part of a two year-long project to replace the Snake River Bridge in Marsing The project will improve safety and driving conditions on the bridge, which is the primary river crossing for the area. More information can be found at https://itdprojects.org/marsing55improvements/.

New traffic pattern will take effect week of August 4 on westbound I-84 at Franklin Boulevard exit

Traffic on WB I-84 near the Franklin Blvd interchange

Ahead of constructing additional lanes on Interstate 84 in Canyon County, the Idaho Transportation Department is reconfiguring westbound lanes of the Interstate near the Franklin Blvd. interchange.

Currently, three westbound lanes are reduced to two lanes with the far left lane merging into the center lane. In the new configuration, the left lane will no longer merge, remaining a travel lane. The far right lane will end, used as the off-ramp to Franklin Blvd. A similar configuration is on westbound I-84 at the Garrity Blvd. interchange, where the Interstate is reduced from four to three lanes.

A graphic showing the new lane configuration of I-84 near Franklin Blvd.

“This reconfiguration maintains the existing capacity of I-84 during construction,” said ITD Project Manager Styles Salek. “With this change, we remind motorists to slow down, plan ahead and pay attention in construction zones.”

In order to promote the safety of motorists and construction crews, ITD has partnered with the Idaho State Police to provide enhanced patrols throughout the duration of the project.

This change will allow crews to begin adding lanes in the I-84 median between Karcher/Midland and Franklin Boulevard. The addition of lanes is part of the ongoing I-84 corridor project from Nampa to Caldwell. Improvements are expected to improve safety, address congestion and benefit the regional economy for many years.

For more information about the I-84, Karcher to Franklin project, listen to the Drive Idaho podcast, visit itdprojects.org/84corridor or text 555888 to request construction updates. You can also contact ITD at 84corridor@itd.idaho.gov and (208) 334-8002.