Bridge rehabilitation to begin construction today on the ID-31 Pine Creek bridge

SWAN VALLEY – To increase the longevity of the bridge, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will begin construction on the ID-31 Pine Creek bridge starting today.

“This bridge rehabilitation will entail replacing the bridge expansion joints, re-surfacing of the bridge deck, repairing the storm water drains, improving the erosion control on the bridge embankment, replacing the guardrail at the approaches, improving the bridge approaches and finishing with new pavement,” said ITD Project Manager Eli Robinson, “This project will greatly improve and extend the lifespan of the bridge.”

The Pine Creek bridge construction will begin today and is expected to be completed by late fall.

Drivers can expect traffic delays for the duration of the project. Reduced speed limits will be effect and traffic will be reduced to one-lane with traffic signals in place.

Please remember to pay attention, obey traffic laws and plan your commute accordingly. ITD would like to remind drivers that traffic fines are doubled in work zones. Please check 511.Idaho.gov for current road conditions.

Intersection improvements to N 4100 E on ID-48 to begin Monday with irrigation pipe work

RIGBY – Construction will start on Monday, March 23 and continue through March 27 to make improvements to the intersection of ID-48 & N 4100 E. Crews will be replacing, moving and improving the irrigation pipe at this intersection.

The contractor is building the project at this time to make the appropriate improvements while there is no irrigation water running in the ditch.

This is the first of four project phases. The next phase is expected to begin this June, as ITD adds turn lanes at the above intersection. These changes are to improve the safety to the intersection and reduce traffic delays.

Expect temporary traffic delays during construction. The eastbound and westbound lanes on ID-48 will have traffic control set up to one-way traffic from 7 a.m.to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Expect traffic delays of up to 15 minutes until the project is completed.

Traffic will also be detoured to N 4200 E and N 4000 E to access N 4100 E from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Traffic will be opened to two lanes on ID-48 overnight on weeknights, starting at 7 p.m.

Please remember to pay attention, obey traffic laws and plan your commute accordingly. ITD would like to remind drivers that traffic fines are doubled in work zones. Please check 511.Idaho.gov for current road conditions.

Temporary speed limit reductions begin Monday in East Idaho on several local highways to preserve roads, vehicles

EAST IDAHO – Recent winter storms and fluctuating temperatures have caused potholes to develop along roadways in Eastern Idaho. To ensure the safety to the traveling public, ITD will be temporarily reducing speed limits on several local highways in East Idaho beginning Monday, March 9 and continuing through May to protect vehicles and preserve roads from further damage.

Crews will lower the speed limit to 55 mph on the following highways:

  • US-20 from Chester to Ashton
  • ID-32 from Ashton to Tetonia
  • ID-33 from US-20/26 junction to I-15
  • ID-33 from Sugar City to Victor
  • ID-22 from Dubois to ID-33 junction
  • ID-47 from Ashton to milepost 7

ITD will also be temporarily lowering the speed limit to 30 mph for all commercial vehicles 10,000 GVWR or greater in the above areas. As spring breakup approaches, ITD crews will continue to repair potholes and monitor road conditions.

In addition, ITD has a project planned in the Idaho Transportation Investment Program that will see ID-33 repaved within the next few years.

Individuals traveling in the area are encouraged to pay attention, slow down and drive with caution. Please visit the improved 511.idaho.gov for updated road information.

Road Closed…What?!

You planned a fun ski trip for the last 3 months across the other side of the state. You get ready to head out the door and check the weather for your route. You’re expecting snow but as of right now roads look fine. You have a 5 plus hour drive to get to the ski resort if all goes well. It’s 4 pm on a Thursday and you start your journey east to the mountains, if all goes well you’ll be there by 9 pm. A few hours into your drive the weather takes a little turn, the snow is coming down a little heavier, temperatures start to drop and the wind is now beginning to blow pretty hard. You start driving a little slower and about 70 miles from the ski resort your travels have now become white knuckle driving.

Only 55 miles left to go, you are a little edgy and just want to get to the resort and off the icy roads. You start on one of the local highways headed East to the mountain and about 45 minutes from the resort you drive up to a road closure on the highway. Saying some choice words at this point and thinking you can make it because you’re so close you stop behind a semi waiting the storm out at the block. You step out and realize its dang cold and windy, so you get back in your car and bundle up to stay warm. You get back out of your car and walk up to the gentleman sitting at the road block.

Dying to drive past the road block and get to the resort you ask him the infamous question…why is the road closed? The man tells him it is very low visibility, the 5 foot snow drifts are completely across the road and the crews cannot keep up with them as the wind is already at 45 mph. A little upset, you now follow-up with another question…when will the road be open? Can I just drive through, I’m sure I can make it?!

Of course the answer will always change as to when a road will be open as that is completely on a situational basis but the man tells you it will be open as soon as the weather cooperates and they can break though so maybe tomorrow night. He also proceeds to say that you cannot drive through the road block. Quite upset at this point because this totally messed up your weekend ski trip, you turn around and decide to stay in a hotel nearby to wait out the storm in hopes the road will open soon. Instead of driving passed the road block you make a wise choice to wait it out.

Has this scenario ever happened to you before where you drove up to a road closure due to the weather? If you live in Idaho, it most likely has happened to quite a few of you. It’s frustrating, it’s inconvenient and trust us when we say we totally understand!

Many travelers wonder why we close roads during the winter weather season…There’s many reasons actually! In severe weather road conditions our number 1 reason is low-visibility. ITD crews make numerous passes on our roadways and if they cannot see well they determine it is unsafe for motorists. Secondly, if the wind is blowing too hard then the snow drifts become uncontrollable. Once the snow drifts become unmanageable and the crews cannot keep up with them, this is also an indicator to close a road.  Some other reasons would be severe black ice on the roadways and heavy snowfall that is impassable. Also, in the mountain passes typically the road might be closed due to avalanches.

When crews close a road, it is closed for a good reason…to keep motorists safe! ITD and ISP do not like to close roads due to the weather, we would prefer keep roads open to keep traffic flowing but that is not the case all of the time. Here’s some food for thought…when coming up to a road block and you get the urge to drive past it and continue on know that per Idaho Code 19-623 it is up to a $300 fine, a possible misdemeanor and possible imprisonment in county jail.

So when you drive up to a road block next time, we recommend to simply turn back and stay in a safe place until the road becomes open again. Our #1 goal is safety for the travelling public and ourselves!

Roads will only close for you and your family’s safety and we want to create the safest travel possible. Be sure to drive for the conditions, plan ahead, be prepared, stay engaged, and visit 511.idaho.gov before you go for current road updates. Dont forget to check out ITD’s road closure video!

ITD to install wildlife fence to improve safety along ID-28

LEADORE – To make the highway safer for the public and wildlife, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will be building wildlife fencing on both sides of Idaho Highway 28 in a three-mile stretch of road between Leadore and Lemhi through August. This action comes about as a result of wildlife-migration studies in the area that show a need for safer mitigation routes due to elevated wildlife-vehicle collision rates.

In addition to the fencing, crews will also be installing new wildlife warning signs, cattle guards, and gates along with building numerous wildlife jump-outs.

ITD worked closely with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game to identify sections of roadway along ID-28 that had these migration safety concerns.

Throughout project construction, ITD will close the highway shoulders in the construction zone and we will also conduct intermittent traffic control as needed.

ITD will close ID-31 for the day starting at 10 am today for snow removal operations

VICTOR – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will close ID-31 from Swan Valley to Victor temporarily starting today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In order to safely move the snow, ITD crews will be conducting multiple snow removal operations along the highway.

Due to recent storms, the area has accumulated a large amount of snow that is hazardous to the area. This planned operation is in efforts to prevent future avalanches and properly remove snow along the roadway the safest way possible for the public and for ITD crews.

ITD advises drivers to plan your trip accordingly during this planned road closure for maintenance.

Please check for road updates on Idaho’s traveler advisory service at 511.idaho.gov or call 5-1-1.

Additional information on winter safety can be found at: itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce/

Slow Your Roll – A candid Q&A with Corporal Bolen

Single car traveling in winter weather.

When it comes to winter driving, safety is always the message we try to stress. Of course, it’s easy to tell people to slow downstay engaged, and drive safely. Unless you’ve been personally affected by the consequences of speeding and winter weather, the seriousness of the message may not resonate.

Idaho State Police (ISP) Trooper BolenWith this in mind, I decided to sit down with our south-central Idaho Law Enforcement Liaison, Scott Bolen. Corporal Bolen has served with Idaho State Police for five years. He’s seen a lot of incidents on Idaho roads during his tenure with ISP. Corporal Bolen offered some insight and advice to benefit all motorists navigating Idaho roads this season.


Q: How do you feel about driving in the snow?

When there is snow on the roadway, it becomes more challenging to drive. Often, snow is just one aspect of multiple challenges a driver faces in winter weather. For example, when we look outside today, not only do we find snowy conditions, but that snow combines with dense fog, which further decreases visibility for a motorist. It’s not impossible to drive in these conditions. However, if you decide to get behind the wheel, you need to decide to drive safely – slow down, increase your stopping distance, and drive for the conditions. 


Q: What are some winter driving incidents you have encountered that have left a lasting impression?

Unfortunately, I encounter many incidents that leave lasting impressions. A few years ago, it was a particularly bad winter. There were a lot of slide-offs that season, and I remember responding to an incident on the interstate where a passenger vehicle had slid off into the median. Visibility was very low that day, and that, combined with the high speed of traveling motorists, made the side of the roadway a frightening place to be. Multiple vehicles, including a semi-truck, came within a breath of hitting my patrol car while I worked to assist the vehicle in distress.  

Another incident occurred where a semi-trailer came over a hill and hit a patch of ice, causing it to jackknife on the highway. I arrived on the scene to find the driver standing outside in the freezing weather. He was terrified that another vehicle was going to come upon him too quickly, not be able to stop and collide with his trailer. Both of these situations could have improved if motorists slowed down, paid attention to their surroundings, and drove for the conditions. 


Q: How many incidents do you feel could have been avoided?

A lot. I cannot even begin to count how many slide-offs and rollovers to which I’ve responded. Many crashes were avoidable if drivers would have taken their cruise control off in slick weather and slowed down. It’s sad to say, but a vast majority of people are impatient. They don’t realize that taking a few extra minutes to get somewhere could make a difference in not getting there at all. 


Q: We remind people to plan ahead when they travel and encourage them to pack emergency winter kits in their cars. What other tips would you recommend for motorists this season?

I think it’s important to remind people to check the weather before they get on the roadway so that they can plan their commute accordingly. The live camera feeds and road updates on 511.idaho.gov are an excellent resource for people to utilize. If individuals are traveling, they need to tell people what route they are taking and what time they expect to arrive at their destination. This planning will help out greatly in the unfortunate event that you get lost or stranded during travel. 


Q: If you could get all drivers to make one change in their behavior, what would it be and why?

The things I’ve seen in my career have made me think and drive differently. Telling people to slow down and be patient is something I cannot stress enough. So many of our winter crashes occur because motorists want to keep going as fast as the posted speed limit allows. Those speeds are set for ideal driving conditions. While you may be able to drive 65 or 80 mph on slick roads, that doesn’t mean you will be able to maintain control of your vehicle or stop. Slowing down and increasing your stopping distance gives you more time to react if something goes wrong.


Q: Anything else you want to add?

Just that we are here to serve the people and help keep our roadways safe. In emergencies, you should always call 9-1-1. If there is a non-emergency, for example, you slide off the road or even suspect a DUI vehicle, call our dispatch center at *ISP (*- 4-7-7), and we will head out to help. 

To pass or not to pass?

It’s a cold, windy, snowy night driving on the interstate. You’re in a hurry to get home from a long day at work, but you can’t see very well in the snowstorm. Cruising along, you drive up on some flashing lights and realize it’s a snowplow ahead.

As you get closer to the plow, you think, “What should I do? Should I pass, or do I stay behind the plow?” When encountering a snowplow, we have a few safety tips to take into consideration.

First things first, please slow down. When you approach a snowplow, the driver may not be able to see you. Snowplows have many blind spots, and when the plow is in use, they have even more limited visibility. Drivers hit many plow trucks each year, which endangers the drivers of both vehicles and other motorists in the area. Leaving more space between the plow and your vehicle gives the plow driver and you more time to react should you hit ice or another problem. Driving too close behind the plow can also expose your vehicle to de-icing materials. When approaching a plow, slow down and be aware of your surroundings.

In heavy snowfall and icy road conditions, the safest place to drive is behind a snowplow at a safe distance. Too often, drivers pass the plow and end up driving at a slower speed than the plow itself, in turn, slowing everyone down.

Passing at elevated speeds on icy road conditions is risky. If you should pass a plow, do not pass on the right. There is a wing plow that is on the right side of the vehicle, extends up to 10′, and is typically masked by a snow plume that it creates when clearing the roadway of snow. Don’t pass on a corner, in an area with blocked views, or on an icy stretch that you are uncomfortable passing on; this makes a safer environment for you and surrounding motorists.

If you see a snowplow driving towards you from the opposite direction, be courteous. Again, please slow down and drive on the right side of your lane to give the snowplow enough room to do its job. Many state highways are narrow, so snowplows take up a little more space on the single lane as they need to plow the center line.

Let’s remember, plow drivers are working to make the road safer for everyone to drive. Using caution when driving around a plow can save someone from having a bad day, or even save a life. Snowplow drivers are our friends and neighbors; they have families too and want to end each shift safely. They drive in the most treacherous storms to keep roads open and as safe as possible for all of us. Please show them respect, give them the space they need to work, be attentive, and, most of all, drive safe. We want you and our plow drivers to get home safely every day!

Check 511 before you hit the road this weekend

With winter weather bearing down on much of the state, a new and improved version of the 511 Traveler Information System is ready to help with your travel plans.

The improved site, still at 511.idaho.gov, offers an updated look and makes it simpler to find useful information for navigating winter roads statewide. The 511 slogan — “Know B 4 U Go” — is a reminder that it’s best to get road condition information before you get behind the wheel and start your trip. Factoring in conditions along your travel route will help you safely get to your destination and back home again.

511 has several tools to show winter road conditions. Snowplow drivers report into headquarters after they maintain a section of road. That report shows up on a color-coded map of the highway. You can see at a glance where ice, snow or low visibility may be impacting driving conditions. From those color-coded road sections, you can navigate to view more details and access short-term weather forecasts for that section of roadway. If conditions are difficult enough to cause a weather delay for drivers, that will be indicated on the map along with delay details.

Another popular feature on 511 is the roadway cameras. Lousy weather conditions show up as alerts and will flag what weather conditions might make driving hazardous. 511 will also display winter storm warnings. The cameras can be useful for planning highway trips or navigating across cities during busy, snowy rush hours.

511 was used over 5.6M times last year, and usage is expected to increase with the improved website and app. ITD welcomes user feedback, and based on user experience, ITD will continue to modify and improve the site over the next few months.

Are you traveling for the holidays? Before you leave for grandma’s house, check 511.idaho.gov, call by phone at 511 or download the Idaho 511 app. The app is a convenient way to stay connected during your travels and check for delays or road updates along the way. Stay safe and happy holidays!

 

 

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.