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.

Northgate opening Dec. 6 marks fulfillment of extensive process, unique partnership

Northgate Interchange Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Three years after negotiations began, and 11 years after District 5 first mentioned the need for a new interchange at the location, the new Northgate Interchange opened to traffic on Dec. 6. It was fueled by a unique public-private partnership that brought the Interstate 15 interchange to reality at least two decades sooner than anticipated.

The collaboration of developers, cities, county, and many many other agencies and parties is a first of its kind for Idaho. While planning and design took time to develop, construction lasted just a year.

Approximately 250 people attended the grand opening, which included a welcome and introductory remarks by ITD D5 District Engineer Todd Hubbard, followed by remarks from Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives Scott Bedke, and Farhana Hibbert, regional director representing U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s office, Buck Swaney, representing Millennial Development Partners, Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown, Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad. Former ITD District Engineer Ed Bala wasalso able to attend.

Watch the video here from the Grand Opening celebration.

“The project was a celebration of great relationships built and excitement from the community,” said ITD Project Manager Greydon Wright.

“We are excited to see what this new interchange helps bring to the communities,” said Wright. “Thank you to everyone who helped and participated throughout this journey.”

The total project, which provides a new entrance to northeast Pocatello and adjacent Chubbuck, represents an investment of roughly $31 million, including connecting roads and infrastructure.

ITD to open Northgate Interchange with ceremony Friday at 11 a.m.

Northgate Interchange

POCATELLO – The Idaho Transportation Department will hold a Grand Opening for the new Interstate 15 Northgate Interchange in Pocatello Friday (Dec. 6) at 11 a.m. The interchange will officially open to traffic that afternoon after the site is cleaned.

The Grand Opening will begin with a welcome from ITD District 5 Engineer Todd Hubbard. Comments will follow from: Farhana Hibbert, regional director for Senator Mike Crapo; Scott Bedke, Speaker of the House of Idaho House of Representatives; Buck Swaney, representing Millennial Development Partners; Bannock County Commissioner Steve Brown; Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England and Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.

Following the brief ceremony, mayor Blad and mayor England will drive across the interchange deck.

The project is the result of a unique public-private partnership, the first of its kind in Idaho. Just three years after the agreement was signed, the interchange is complete and ready to open.

The total project, which provides a new entrance to northeast Pocatello and adjacent Chubbuck, represents an investment of roughly $31 million, including connecting roads and infrastructure.

 

Districts come together to patch Interstate bridge

Blackfoot Bridge Repairs

Months of preparation with multiple delays and last minute changes, the I-15 Blackfoot bridge was finally able to get repaired. After years of temporary patches to fill in potholes and disintegrating concrete, crews were able to come together as one big team to help fix the bridge and pulled off one of the biggest traffic control plans ITD has ever done internally.

This project involved many tasks. Of those tasks crews had to sandblast and resurface the bridge deck, replaced guardrail and completed other much needed shoulder work. This repair project was intended to temporary fix the bridge until we are able to begin a full bridge deck rehab project planned in the summer of 2020.

From October 7 – 9 crews shut down north bound I-15 and from October 15 – 17 south bound I-15 was temporarily shut down. With the intent to utilize all 3 days on each side of the interstate, crews worked diligently and fluidly to complete the project 1 day early on each side. Completing this project early on each side was no easy task but crews made it happen and it couldn’t have gone any smoother.

Originally planned for September, the bridgework had been delayed a few times due to project complications and local concerns. After working with the community and local politicians regarding the bridgework and road closures, ITD crews were able to work around the holidays and harvest. In working with the community so closely and openly, the project was incredibly successful and well received by many.

As numerous districts and crews from all over came out to help, the traffic control was also a key part to the success of this project. Spear heading the traffic control plans, D5 Blackfoot TTO’s Jared Loosli & Rocky Messick worked with numerous people and pulled off one of the largest traffic control jobs done internally throughout the state.

There was close to 10 miles of traffic control setup with crossovers, road closures barricades and numerous flaggers. The crews set the speed limit to 55 mph and with the help of ISP playing a huge role in transitioning and patrolling travelers, the project did not have any crashes…a few close calls but no crashes!

Crews provided 24hr coverage while traffic control was in effect. In closing each side of the interstate down and having such great traffic control, not only were crews able to get in and done with the project quicker but it was significantly safer. By doing this our crews felt safe and gave them the extra confidence that we (ITD) has their back to keep them safe.

As this project ended as a huge success, there was a little bit of a learning curve for the guys to take back for future projects. Learning with even a speed of 55mph to use bigger basses for the candlesticks so they don’t blow over as much and also to adjust exit ramps for the southbound for an easier and clearer transition for drivers.

“It was impressive to see the success of taking one project, bringing in so many people from different areas and working to well together”, said Jared Loosli, “It just goes to show that we can do big things if we’re asked to do big things, we can make it happen!”

Paving begins on US-30 Georgetown to Nounan Road project

POCATELLO – Crews have begun paving US-30 between Georgetown and Nounan Road. This section of roadway has reached the end of its design life, and the roadway needs to be rebuilt to meet current design standards.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Traffic will be reduced to a single lane and motorists will be guided through the work zone by flaggers and a pilot car with a speed limit of 45 mph.

To save time and money, the city of Georgetown has been working with the Idaho Transportation Department to make improvements while the road is under construction. The city has hired a contractor to replace the water line through town. It is expected to be finished when the US-30 project is complete.

ITD encourages drivers to slow down, pay attention, follow the posted speed limit and watch for crews working in the area.

Motorists are encouraged to plan ahead and check 511.Idaho.gov for driving conditions.

I-15 Exit 93 Blackfoot bridge repairs start Monday

BLACKFOOT – Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) maintenance crews will make repairs to the Blackfoot bridge on I-15 at Exit 93 for your safety and mobility. Repairs will begin Monday, Oct. 7, with plans to be completed by Oct. 17.

Crews will be sandblasting and resurfacing the bridge deck, replacing guardrail and completing shoulder work. This repair project is intended to temporarily fix the bridge until ITD is able to begin the bridge deck rehab project planned for the summer of 2020.

Construction will be performed on northbound I-15 from Oct. 7-9. Traffic control will be removed and traffic will resume as usual after Oct. 9 until southbound construction begins. Traffic control will continue for southbound I-15 construction from Oct. 15-17.

Drivers can expect traffic delays for the duration of the project. Reduced speed limits will be in effect and traffic will be shifted over periodically to single-lane, two-way traffic. Click here to see the pdf explaining the traffic-control plans. 

Oversized loads will need to use appropriate alternative routes as there will be a 12-foot lane restriction through the construction zone.

Visit 511.Idaho.gov for current road conditions and information.

UPDATE: Southbound I-15 traffic will be routed around Rose Road Interchange (Exit 98) at night Sept. 19-20

POCATELLO – The Idaho Transportation Department will direct all traffic on southbound I-15 to use Exit 98 on the nights of Sept. 19-20 during construction at the Rose Road Interchange.

A detour will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. both nights. All traffic on southbound I-15 will be directed to use the off-ramp at Exit 98, and then to use the southbound on-ramp at Exit 98 to continue on I-15. All Exit 98 ramps and Rose Road will remain open.

The nighttime restrictions will allow contractors to demolish the southbound side of the old Rose Road Bridge over I-15. In early October, the contractor will demolish the northbound side.

This work is a part of a project to reconstruct the interchange at Rose Road (Exit 98) on Interstate 15. The interchange is expected to open later this year with additional construction activities to be completed in spring 2020.

More information about the $10.8 million I-15, Rose Road Interchange project is available at itdprojects.org/rose. Citizens may sign up for email updates by texting INTERSTATE 15 to 22828 or emailing I-15construction@itd.idaho.gov.

Work closing southbound I-15 off-ramp to Malad at Exit 13 for realignment Sept. 9

POCATELLO – The southbound Interstate 15 off-ramp to Malad at Exit 13 will close starting on Monday (Sept. 9) as crews realign the ramp, eliminating a free-running right to improve safety.

This graphic shows the current interchange configuration overlaid in blue with the new configuration.

Drivers will need to use Exit 17 as the detour during this work, and loop back to Malad via Old Highway 191.

Idaho Materials & Construction is the contractor on this project.

Motorists can visit 511.idaho.gov for project details and updates on this and other roadwork in the area.

Rose Road Interchange (Exit 98) will be closed Sept 3-5 for paving

POCATELLO – The Idaho Transportation Department will close the Rose Road Interchange (Exit 98) for paving on Tuesday, September 3 from 7 a.m. to Thursday, September 5 at 7 p.m. The north and southbound off-ramps will also be closed during this time.

Traffic will be detoured around the closure and will be notified with digital messaging boards prior to the closures. See detour map.

This work is a part of a year-long project to reconstruct the interchange at Rose Road (Exit 98) on Interstate 15 to maximize the safety and mobility for motorists using this interchange. Construction includes widening the Rose Road overpass and increasing its vertical clearance, reconfiguring and lengthening the interchange ramps, and replacing two canal structures to support current traffic loads.

The interchange is expected to open later this year with additional construction activities to be completed in Spring 2020.

More information about the I-15, Rose Road Interchange project is available at itdprojects.org/rose. Community members may sign up for email updates by texting INTERSTATE 15 to 22828 or emailing I-15construction@itd.idaho.gov.

Chubbuck and ITD will partner to replace damaged signal cabinet at Chubbuck/Yellowstone intersection Sunday

CHUBBUCK – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will partner with the city of Chubbuck to replace a damaged signal cabinet at the intersection of Chubbuck Road and Yellowstone Avenue (US-91) on Sunday, August 11.

The signal cabinet to be replaced was heavily damaged last winter due a car accident. The cabinet was in working condition, though, and has been used until this replacement.

Work is expected to take just one day, beginning at 5 a.m.

The traffic signal at the intersection will be turned off until the replacement is complete. Appropriate traffic control will be set up and flaggers will be present to direct traffic.

ITD advises drivers to pay attention to the traffic control and please use an alternate route until the project is complete.