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 so you know before you go.

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

Intersection closure to occur next week on 200 South Road east of Jerome

The west side intersection of US-93 and 200 South Road in Jerome County will be closed starting Monday of next week (Dec. 16). This closure will allow utilities work to occur in the area. Work is expected to be completed within the week.

Motorists will need to utilize 100 South Road or 300 South Road while this closure is in place. Drivers should be aware of crews and equipment while traveling through the area. US-93 will remain fully open during this time.

This work is in connection with the larger US-93, 200 South Road project, which will widen the existing roadway to four lanes.

“This project will improve safety at the US-93/200 South intersection for both passenger and commercial vehicles,” said ITD Project Manager Sam Purser. “The end result will be a divided highway similar to what drivers encounter two miles south of this area.”

Idaho Materials and Construction is the prime contractor for this project.

Motorists encounter new traffic pattern next week on US-93 in Lincoln County

Motorists traveling on US-93 south of Shoshone next week will encounter a change in traffic pattern as newly constructed climbing lanes open for use. The new lanes are expected to open on Tuesday (Nov. 5).

“The addition of these climbing lanes will allow drivers to safely pass slower vehicles that may be traveling along the elevated stretch of roadway,” said south-central Idaho project coordinator Kenny Lively. “These new lanes will improve safety in the corridor for both commercial and passenger vehicles.”

Since May of this year, the Idaho Transportation Department has been constructing a divided highway with approximately three miles of northbound and southbound lanes near Notch Butte.

Portable message signs have been added on US-93 alerting drivers of the upcoming change in pattern. Motorists should pay attention while driving through this area as they become familiar with navigating the new roadway.


Substantial headway made on Salt Lake Interchange project east of Burley

Underway since May 2018, substantial progress has been made on the Interstate 84/86 Salt Lake City Interchange in Cassia County. With this project, the Idaho Transportation Department is replacing the old interchange with a new structure that will meet current standards and provide a better driving experience for motorists.

“This is a vital travel and commerce corridor for not only this area, but for the entire state,” said ITD Project Manager Travis Hitchcock. “Our goal is to construct an interchange that will serve motorists for many years to come.”

As work proceeds, drivers should anticipate a continuation of reduced speeds and changing traffic patterns through the work zone.

“There will be varying detours over the next several months as work on specific portions of the structure occurs,” stated ITD Project Inspector Jack Kelly. “It’s important that motorists not follow their GPS but instead pay close attention to signage which is in place to safely direct motorists through the area.”

Construction is scheduled to finish by late 2020.

Wadsworth Brothers Construction, of Draper, Utah is the prime contractor on this project.

New detour planned this week for Salt Lake Interchange project east of Burley

Beginning tomorrow night (Oct. 29) at 10 p.m., a new detour will be in place for motorists heading east on Interstate 84/86 from Burley toward Pocatello. During this time, crews will install new structures to hold overhead signage.

Weather permitting, this temporary traffic pattern is expected to last until 6 a.m. on Wednesday, October 30.

“Unlike previous detours that have been occurring in this area, this portion of construction requires that we direct motorists completely off of the interstate,” said ITD Project Manager Travis Hitchcock. “Directing traffic to Idaho Highway 77 and Idaho Highway 81 will allow for safe installation of the structures without traffic traveling underneath.”

This is part of the Salt Lake Interchange replacement project, underway since May of last year. Construction is scheduled to finish by late 2020.

Drivers should still anticipate reduced speeds through the work zone and pay close attention to signage in place to safely direct motorists through the area.

Wadsworth Brothers Construction, of Draper, Utah is the prime contractor on this project.


Drivers can expect increased traffic delays during Salmon Falls Creek Bridge work on US-30

Next Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 30 & 31) the Idaho Transportation Department is planning to place a bridge deck on the newly constructed Salmon Falls Creek Bridge near Banbury Hot Springs in Twin Falls County.

“While the deck is being placed, motorists will encounter longer than normal delays,” says ITD Project Manager Kenny Lively. “Although most construction delays have been minimal, this upcoming work could result in wait times upwards of 30-40 minutes. As such, we are recommending motorists utilize an alternate route during these days.”

Weather permitting, placement of the deck is expected to take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day. In the mornings and evenings, when work is not underway, the area will be open to single lane traffic with a temporary traffic signal in place.

This is part of a larger bridge replacement project that has been underway since June of this year. When completed, the new structure will be both wider and longer – accommodating two 12-foot lanes in each direction, and incorporating a new left-turn lane as well.

Construction on the project is expected to be complete by early summer of next year.

The general contractor is RSCI from Boise.

Road closure expected Oct. 16 & 17 on US-20 in Camas and Blaine counties

On Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 16 & 17) the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is planning to close US-20 between mileposts 164 and 173 near Fairfield as crews pave the newly constructed Willow Creek and Rock Creek bridges.

The closure is expected to begin at 11 a.m. and is anticipated to last approximately three hours each day.

This is part of the Willow Creek Bridge and Rock Creek Bridge construction projects underway since April of this year. Crews replaced aging and corroded culverts with new bridge structures, which are expected to have a longer lifespan. It will also allow the streams in both locations to be restored to a more natural condition, which should have a positive effect on the surrounding ecosystem.

“We are making every effort to minimize impacts to motorists in the region,” said ITD south-central Idaho Project Manager Brock Dillé. “With the unexpected drop in temperatures this past month, we have a very narrow window to complete work on these structures. Briefly closing the highway will allow us to work more efficiently, and hopefully prevent us from having to return to the area next year to complete the project.”

ITD will place barricades and signage at area intersections to alert travelers. Flaggers will also be present to inform motorists and assist them with determining the best path of travel.

Knife River is the general contractor for both projects.

Public invited to give input Oct. 15 on plans to redesign the I-84/ID-50 Interchange (Exit 182) near Kimberly

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is planning to rebuild the Interstate 84/Idaho Highway 50 interchange in 2024 and is seeking public input on several design options.

ITD will display five proposed designs, including the no-build option, at a public open house on October 15, 2019, at the Rock Creek Fire Department, 1159 Main St. N. in Kimberly. The meeting will be held in an open house format between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., giving participants an opportunity to attend anytime within the two-hour time frame. Project team members will be available to discuss the project and answer questions about proposed designs.

The interchange is a key agricultural and industrial route for accessing the Magic Valley along ID-50. As the area grows and more commercial and residential development occurs, the interchange will become even more critical to the safe movement of people and goods.

Improvements are needed to maintain safety, improve mobility, and foster continued economic development in the area.

If you have questions or comments about the project but are unable to attend the public meeting please visit or contact ITD Project Manager Andrew Young at 208-886-7854 or


TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Lane reductions anticipated next week on the Perrine Bridge

Lane reductions are anticipated next week on the Perrine Bridge as the Idaho Transportation Department moves heavy equipment from one end of the structure to the other. Weather permitting, work is expected to begin Tuesday morning (Sept. 24) at approximately 8:15 a.m.

Crews will first work on the northbound lanes before moving to the southbound lanes. Closures of the right lane will alternate between north and southbound traffic as crews perform work in relation to that direction.

Motorists are encouraged to check for current updates on road conditions and restrictions.

Additional traffic advisories regarding the bridge will be disseminated when impacts are expected.

Roadway repairs expected to occur next week on ID-75 in Blaine County

The Idaho Transportation Department will continue repairs next week on Idaho Highway 75 in Blaine County. Work will occur on two stretches of roadway between River Street and Weyyakin Drive in Ketchum. Additional work will also take place near Hailey.

Weather permitting, crews are anticipated to complete work within two weeks.

“Our goal is to complete repairs before temperatures drop below 30 degrees,” said ITD area foreman Brad Lynch. “The type of work completed in the coming days will be dependent on how much moisture is in the air.

Some areas will require a detour while work is being performed. Traffic control crews may also be utilized on various stretches of roadway. Motorists are advised to exercise caution and follow signs which will be in place to safely direct drivers through the area.

Repairs are expected to take place between 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.