The Idaho Transportation Department is updating its popular Traffic Tracker tool to provide traffic counts for the previous five years, expanding the available information and providing better context to those making use of the data.
The Traffic Tracker was launched in March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit Idaho. It was designed to track the acute, day-to-day changes in traffic patterns across the state. This information was helpful to businesses, healthcare providers, and emergency managers in understanding the impacts of lockdown. As time went by, trends emerged and the detailed data became unwieldy and unhelpful.
The update, launched Monday Aug. 3, draws from the same automatic traffic recorders as the original tool. Now, however, the data is averaged to monthly counts and plotted alongside the previous five years of data.
“We have been tracking this data for years now,” said Margaret Pridmore, ITD Roadway Data Manager. “This is information we’ve been gathering into reports for ITD executives and the Governor’s Office. With the innovation of the original traffic tracker interface, we’re now able to make this data readily available to the general public. It’s a great step in increasing transparency and providing helpful information to the people we serve.”
With a monthly comparison year over year, the information puts into context the broader impact of the pandemic on travel across Idaho. There has been a steady increase in traffic the last five years due to the exceptional growth of the state and a booming economy. Those numbers took a nose dive in March and April, quickly rebounding in May. Currently, average travel volumes are still slightly lower than previous years, but the trend is increasing – and there are some notable exceptions.
“We’re seeing record travel to remote areas of the state, such as the Central Mountains,” said Pridmore. “Boise County in particular is seeing more vehicles on Idaho Highways 55 and 21. It is a sign of people getting out of denser population centers during the pandemic.”
The monthly traffic reports are generally completed by the second week of a month. Compared to the previous day-to-day data of the original Traffic Tracker tool, these numbers will be quality checked before publishing.
Starting tonight, the Idaho Transportation Department will open US-95 at the slide area south of Riggins for nighttime travel. Moving forward, the temporary road around the base of the highway will be open 24/7 unless closures are required for safety concerns or future repairs.
“We have worked with our geotechnical experts to establish a monitoring and lighting system that allows us to continually observe and survey the slope,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “Now that we can do it safely outside of daylight hours, opening up for nighttime travel will better serve our customers who need to make deliveries at night.”
Flaggers will be on site tonight to direct two lanes of traffic through the work area. After tonight, temporary signals will replace the flaggers. The signals will be controlled by a spotter who will observe the slope and coordinate with surveyors on site.
To preserve the route for future use as a detour, Old Pollock Road will continue to be posted for local traffic only.
“This slide has proven to be a complicated issue, and we would like to thank everyone for their patience as we work to resolve it in a safe manner,” Hopkins said.
The temporary road around the base of the slide has been open for daytime travel since July 27.
Plans for long-term repairs are still being designed. They are not expected to be completed this week. Another update will be sent once a contractor has been hired.
july 30 update
ITD toured the site with prospective contractors earlier this week to answer questions prior to putting the design plans for long-term mitigation out to bid.
Based on feedback from the contracting community, additional details are being added to the plans. The contract will likely not be awarded until next week or after.
july 27 update
The temporary gravel road around the base of the slide opened to two lanes today. Flaggers are on site to help traffic in the event that movement is detected on the slope.
At night, flaggers will shift from their current positions closer to the slide to maintain the closure on Old Pollock Road so it may remain viable for future use as a detour.
july 26 update
Tomorrow morning (July 27), the Idaho Transportation Department will open US-95 at milepost 188. Drivers will be able to navigate through the area on a temporary gravel road that was built at the base of the slide.
This temporary roadway was previously used for a short period of time before additional movement of the slope was discovered, which ultimately resulted in further rockfall on the highway.
“Our focus has always been centered on reopening the highway as soon as possible,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “The nature of this situation however, requires us to remain diligent and only make decisions when we can ensure the safety of both motorists and our workers.”
Last week, crews worked to blast and remove massive boulders that had fallen on the temporary roadway. Additional maintenance operations occurred over the weekend in order for traffic to begin utilizing the road Monday morning.
The temporary road will be open to one lane traffic during daytime hours only (5 a.m. to 8 p.m. PDT / 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. MDT). Drivers must adhere to flaggers and pilot cars that will be present to direct them through the area.
“We have been monitoring the slope since the initial slide occurred on July 3, and we will continue monitoring the slope while traffic is moving around the base of the slide,” stated Hopkins. “Safe monitoring can only occur during daylight so the hours of travel will be reduced to coincide with such.”
Over the coming weeks, ITD will continue to remove rocks from US-95 and mitigate the stability of the slope.
“We appreciate how cooperative and patient the public has been throughout this process,” Hopkins said. “Our crews have been, and will continue, to work as quickly as possible to safely restore the highway and driving conditions back to normal.”
july 24 update
Over the last week crews were able to drill and blast some of the biggest boulders that have kept the temporary road around the base of the slide on US-95 south of Riggins closed since July 10. With these boulders now much smaller, the route may reopen as early as Monday, July 27.
“Now that the boulders are of manageable size, we will focus on clearing the detour around the base of the slide while continuing to monitor the stability of the slope,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “We are still determining what the highway will look like when it reopens, but drivers should be prepared for flaggers and reduced lanes and hours.”
The final repairs to mitigate the slope failure are scheduled to be awarded on July 30. Once awarded, the contractor will be asked to mobilize within 48 hours.
Old Pollock Road will continue to be monitored and maintained for possible use as a detour in the future.
july 17 update
On Monday crews are expected to start removing rocks at the base of the slide on US-95 south of Riggins. The temporary road built around the base has been blocked by massive boulders since the slope failed for a second time last week but may be open in time for next weekend.
“Our entire timeline is dependent on survey results,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “If we observe movement, that will limit our ability to have crews working underneath the slope and delay the eventual reopening of the temporary road.”
No significant movement has been detected since late last week, allowing scalers to finish dislodging loose material on the rock face this week.
Removing debris and rebuilding the rock berm to shield the temporary road is planned to take at least all week.
“Some of these boulders are 40 feet wide,” Hopkins said. “We’ll need to drill and blast them into small enough pieces to be removed.”
In the meantime, drivers will continue to be detoured to Old Pollock Road, which is open from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. PDT / 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. MDT.
To ensure the long-term stability of the slope, ITD has hired WHPacific to design a mitigation plan that will include controlled blasting. Those plans are scheduled to be advertised in a few weeks to allow for construction in late summer. At this time the duration and costs of removal of the rock face are unknown.
july 14 afternoon update
The US-95 slide detour route on Old Pollock Road will open an hour earlier starting tomorrow morning (July 15). Traffic will be allowed on the route from 5 am – 8 pm PDT (6 am – 9 pm MDT). This change in time is to better accommodate local traffic.
All motorists utilizing the route must still adhere to flaggers and pilot cars that are there to safely and efficiently direct traffic through the area.
July 14 morning UPDATE
The Idaho Transportation Department will continue to monitor the US-95 slide south of Riggins (milepost 188) to determine if the area is sufficiently stable for crews to begin working on rock removal.
“The additional rock fall that occurred last Thursday invalidated the survey points we were monitoring,” ITD Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “We have to once again establish a baseline and carefully monitor the slope over a number of days to ensure that no significant movement is continuing to occur that would cause concern.”
A scaling crew was onsite yesterday to evaluate damage resulting from the recent rock fall and assess how the area can be best secured so that crews can begin removing fallen rock off the highway. Scalers also worked to knock off loose rocks and boulders on the slope.
Scaling activities, along with continued monitoring, are expected to carry on throughout the remainder of this week.
“We need to give the slope time to stabilize,” Hopkins explained. “When we are able to safely bring more crews into the area, we will begin rock removal, starting first on the temporary road built at the base of the slide.”
Some of the fallen rock is up to 40 feet in diameter. Various methods will be required to break the massive boulders into pieces and remove them with heavy equipment.
“Blasting in some form will likely occur,” stated Hopkins. “This will be done in a controlled manner and we will continue to carefully monitor the above slope while any work on the ground is underway.”
US-95 will remain closed until it is determined that the slope is stable and crews are safely able to enter the area and remove fallen rock.
Old Pollock Road will continue to serve as a detour around the slide during daytime hours – 6 am – 8 pm PDT (7 am – 9 pm MDT). The detour will remain closed at night as crews perform maintenance operations on the roadway, which typically does not see this amount of traffic.
Hopkins said the goal is to reopen the temporary roadway on US-95 as soon as it’s feasible to do so.
“We have to continue to put the safety of our workers and the traveling public first in every decision we make. Our team is working hourly and diligently on this ever changing situation and we appreciate the patience and cooperation of area residence and motorists as we work to restore the highway.”
July 10 UPDATE
Massive boulders came down last night at the U.S. Highway 95 slide south of Riggins (milepost 188). The slope above the route remains too unstable to allow for traffic or rock removal crews in the area.
“The highway will remain closed until we are able to evaluate this new development and determine the best option to safely stabilize the slope.” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.
The department had already built a temporary gravel road to detour traffic around the base of the slide, but continued significant movement on the slope closed it on July 8.
“The extensive rock fall that occurred last night confirmed that we had made the right decision to completely close that portion of US-95 to traffic,” Hopkins said.
Early next week, crews will again begin scaling the slope and surveying the area.
“Currently there are a lot of overhanging boulders and ledges,” stated Hopkins. “We don’t yet know how stable these are and until we are able to further evaluate the area, crews will not be able to engage in rock removal operations.”
Old Pollock Road will continue to serve as a detour around the slide during daytime hours – 6 am – 8 pm PDT (7 am – 9 pm MDT). The detour will remain closed at night in order for crews to perform maintenance operations on the roadway, which typically does not see this amount of traffic.
“It’s very important that we maintain the integrity of Old Pollock Road so that it can continue to serve as a viable option for detouring traffic during this time,” Hopkins said.
The slope and area around the slide is considered extremely hazardous. ITD is asking citizens to stay away from the area for their safety. The department is also asking drivers choosing to use the detour, to ensure that they drive attentively in order to keep traffic flowing.
“The proven unpredictability of this slide requires that we remain flexible,” Hopkins said. “While our goal is to safely reopen the highway as soon as possible, we are very thankful that no one has been injured and will focus our efforts to ensure that it remains that way.”
Updates will be provided on the status of the slide as they are made available. At present, there is no estimated time for reopening of the highway.
July 8 evening update
The recently reopened detour around the US-95 closure south of Riggins due to a July 3 rockslide will not open tomorrow following discovery of significant movement on the slope. This closure is anticipated to last at least two days.
“Between Monday and today, one of our survey targets moved nearly two inches,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “That kind of activity may not sound like much, but in terms of geological movement it is alarming.”
The continued closure at US-95 will allow geotechnical experts to perform intensive scaling activities to dislodge the rock and reassess site conditions.
During the closure, Old Pollock Road will serve as a detour for both passenger and commercial traffic.
“This is a one-lane gravel road that is nearly four miles long,” Hopkins said. “Even with this open, getting through the area could take up to three hours.”
Repairs to Old Pollock Road were completed earlier tonight. Flaggers will be on scene tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. PDT / 7 a.m. MDT to direct alternating traffic.
“Slides are unpredictable, and this one keeps proving that,” Hopkins said. “For the safety of drivers and our workers, we have to close it. Until this problem is solved, we recommend that drivers check 511 every time they travel on US-95.”
July 8 morning update
U.S. Highway 95 will open to one lane of traffic between Pollock and Riggins this morning by 10 a.m. PDT/ 11 a.m. MDT and stay open until 8 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. MDT for the first time since the July 3 rockslide closed it at milepost 188.
Drivers will pass around the slide on a temporary gravel road. They should expect lengthy delays as only a limited number of vehicles will be allowed to pass underneath the slope at one time. Scaling activity above will also require periodic 20-minute closures over the next couple of days.
“We have built a rock berm and placed large container boxes to shield traffic from any unforeseen rockfall,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “A spotter and a surveyor will watch the hillside and be ready to have flaggers close the highway in the unlikely event it becomes unstable.”
Starting Thursday, ITD plans to open the highway from 6 a.m. PDT /7 a.m. MDT to 8 p.m. PDT/ 9 p.m. MDT each day. Approximately 30 minutes before the highway is closed each night, staff at barricades in Riggins and New Meadows will turn traffic away.
Crews will continue breaking down rocks and pushing them up against the existing berm to make it taller and provide more room for any further debris.
Improvements to Old Pollock Road will be completed later today, serving as another one-lane gravel option for local commuters only but not commercial traffic.
“For the time being, motorists should plan for congestion and expect the highway to be closed at night when we can’t monitor the slope,” Hopkins said. “We expect to keep flagging and monitoring for several weeks until we identify a long-term solution.”
Another update will be released when the long-term solution is identified next week.
July 7 update
The Idaho Transportation Department plans to open US-95 to traffic between Pollock and Riggins tomorrow, Wednesday (July 8) following the evaluation of geotechnical experts yesterday and positive results from continued monitoring. The highway will only open during the day to allow observation of the slope.
“Yesterday geotechnical professionals measured the slope to identify short-term options to get the highway safely open,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “Today rock scalers will keep dislodging any loose material.”
Crews have closed Old Pollock Road to add gravel and install culverts to help the county repair it for local and commuter traffic. Work is expected to take up to two days.
Recent rain could affect the stability of the slope. More details will be released tomorrow morning.
July 6 evening update
Old Pollock Road will be closed from 7 a.m. tomorrow until Wednesday evening as improvements are made for a future non-commercial detour around the slide.
July 6 morning update
Results from geotechnical surveys on the slide south of Riggins showed significantly less movement on the slope yesterday (July 5), but the highway will remain closed today (July 6) to allow for more monitoring.
Outside experts are examining the slope today to identify short-term and long-term options to stabilize the area. They are also dislodging any loose material.
“By tomorrow morning, we will have more data to compare to the baseline conditions of the slope,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said.
Crews have finished constructing the temporary road around the slide at milepost 188 and have placed barriers to protect future traffic from rockfall.
“When survey results and on-slope evaluations prove that the slide is stable, we will look to open the highway for short periods of time,” Hopkins said. “In the meantime, we are evaluating the condition of Old Pollock Road to see how we may be able to help the county with a locals-only detour.”
The Idaho Transportation Department has submitted feedback to Google Maps to show that Old Pollock Road is currently not open to traffic. There is no detour around the slide.
July 5 update
U.S. Highway 95 will no longer open to traffic between Pollock and Riggins this afternoon to allow for continued monitoring of the slide at milepost 188.
“We know this is contradictory to what we had hoped to accomplish today and will cause long detours for travelers heading home,” ITD District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “However, without enough data and uncertainty about an apparent gap at the top of the hillside, we are concerned it might be active still.”
Yesterday around 4:30 p.m. crews left the site once a crack in the rock face became visible from below. They had been working on a temporary road around the slide as well as building a rock berm and placing container boxes to shield traffic once allowed to pass through.
“The very nature of slides is unpredictable,” Operations Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “At this time, we’re not sure when we will be able to open the highway, but we are continuing to conduct geotechnical surveys and tomorrow will have experts on the slope to pry off any loose material and further analyze its condition.”
July 4 update
Depending on geotechnical survey results, US-95 between Pollock and Riggins may temporarily open tomorrow afternoon (Sunday, July 5) to allow traffic to drive around the rock slide that has closed the highway since Friday morning.
“We were fortunate that there was no further activity last night, and if repeated surveys show no more movement, we are prepared to open the highway for a short time,” ITD District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “We have surveyors on site right now to periodically gauge the stability of the slope.”
Around 9 a.m. Friday, the slope above milepost 188 crashed onto the highway, leaving a debris field approximately 120 feet long and 40 feet deep at the base. Some rocks measure 25 feet across and just as tall. Continued rockfall throughout the day kept maintenance crews from cleaning up the slide.
Equipment and operators from across the region have been called to the area. Crews are actively working to build a temporary road around the slide with a tall berm and container boxes to protect drivers in the event of more rockfall.
“Even with those protective measures in place, the biggest threat to drivers’ safety will be the stability of the slope above them,” Hoff said. “We cannot open the highway until we know it’s safe, and we won’t know without more surveys taken over time.”
Future conditions for travel are unknown at this time. Drivers should download the 511 app, follow ITD on Facebook and Twitter and pay attention to signs in the area.
Another release will be sent Sunday morning to confirm any opening of the highway.
Idaho Highway 8 will be resurfaced from Bovill east toward Elk River over the next two months, with work set to begin Tuesday, August 4. Resurfacing seven miles of the highway from its intersection with Idaho Highway 3 and Ruby Creek will provide a smoother ride for drivers.
Crews will work 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday through Saturday. During working hours only, the highway will be reduced to one lane.
A nearby project to fill in cracks and resurface 13.5 miles of ID-9 between Harvard and Deary is expected to wrap up in mid-August.
Visit 511.idaho.gov before traveling to see what impacts you may encounter on your route.
Dependent on the weather, controlled blasting will occur tomorrow afternoon (Friday, July 31) in the median of Interstate 84 between Twin Falls and Jerome. For safety, traffic will not be allowed through the area while this activity is underway.
Carefully controlled blasting is required to loosen the hard rock in the median.
This work was previously scheduled to begin in the evening, but has been moved to 2:00 pm in order to avoid potential adverse weather. Drivers may encounter delays up to 60 minutes.
ITD is asking motorists to consider using alternate routes while this work occurs. Electronic message boards and signage will be activated on the interstate in advance of the event. Motorists are advised to adhere to signs and pay attention to flaggers and Idaho State Police who will be assisting with slowing traffic on the interstate.
Public comment to help guide ITD’s Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) program with its multi-year methodology is being sought through August 24. The DBE program works to provide a level playing field for minority-owned or under-represented businesses in the design and construction of federally funded transportation projects.
Due to Covid-19, two virtual meetings will be held online. The virtual meeting log in and call-in instructions can be found below. The DBE document for public review can also be found below.
Normally, bridges moving is not something an engineer wants to see, but this weekend construction crews slid the first of two new bridges at the Interstate 84 Blacks Creek Interchange sixty feet into place — where it will stay for decades to come.
The slide-in-place maneuver was designed to minimize impacts to the heavily traveled Interstate. Crews construct the bulk of the new bridge right next to the existing structure. When ready, the old bridge is demolished and the replacement structure is slid into place.
“The driving force behind choosing a lateral bridge slide method was our focus on the people we serve and their ability to get where they need to go.” said Patrick Kelly, the ITD project manager overseeing the work. “We were able to keep lanes open during the entire bridge construction process. Once it was ready, we closed the eastbound lanes, demolished the old structure, pushed the new bridge into place, and are wrapping up construction on the adjacent roadway. In the end, we will have closed interstate lanes of traffic for weeks rather than months.”
The whole process, from demolition to reopening traffic, will take two to three weeks. Normal bridge replacements can take several months. With the new bridge in place, crews have just a few final items to complete, including work at the bridge abutments and repaving approaches.
To get the bridge from temporary footings to its permanent home, crews lay down Teflon pads and cover them with dish soap. Then, heavy machinery pushes and pulls the structure into place. It’s a surprisingly effective way to reduce friction and easily move the massive structure.
“Seeing how smoothly the bridge slid into place was very satisfying.” said Kelly. “It has been months of planning, preparation, and a lot of hard work to get to this point. The crews from Knife River have done a wonderful job and should be very proud of the work they’ve done.”
The second bridge for the westbound lanes has been constructed next to the old structure. Crews are currently finishing up the eastbound side of the interchange, including work on ramps and Blacks Creek Road. They will be ready to slide the westbound bridge into place in early August using the same method.
Idaho is about to become the latest state to have a hands-free driving law on the books. Earlier this year the Idaho legislature passed House Bill 614 banning the use of handheld electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. The new law takes effect on July 1.
Distracted driving is a contributing factor in about one out of every five crashes in Idaho. Between 2014 and 2018, there were 241 people killed in distracted driving crashes across the state with hundreds more seriously injured.
While most of us choose to drive engaged by putting away distractions and focusing on the road – the new law may be a timely reminder for others to drive well.
Here are some answers to questions you might have about Idaho’s newest traffic safety law:
We already have a distracted driving law, so how is this new law different?
In 2012, the legislature passed a law that prohibited texting — this statute will be repealed once the new law becomes effective. The old law focused on the act of texting and driving and did not provide provisions for other uses of phones like using social media, watching or capturing videos, or playing video games. The new law accounts for many of the additional ways we use electronic devices.
Another notable change in the law is its definition of operating a motor vehicle. For the former texting and driving law to be enforced, it required the driver to be texting while driving a vehicle in motion. The new law applies when you drive or have physical control of a motor vehicle in a travel lane on a public roadway – even if you are temporarily stopped at a stop sign or a traffic signal. Keep in mind, if you are parked out of the travel lane, you can use your phone.
Under the new law, use of a handheld electronic device becomes a moving violation and carries a progressive fine for multiple violations within a three year period.
My city already has a hands-free ordinance, do I need to keep that in mind?
Once the law takes effect, it will preempt all local ordinances in relation to hands-free driving. In other words, the expectation statewide is that we put our phones away while we drive.
Will drivers get a chance to get used to the new law?
One of the provisions of the new law is that people won’t receive citations for violations in the first six months in order to educate the public about the new law. But just because law enforcement officers aren’t issuing citations doesn’t mean they aren’t enforcing the law. You can still be stopped by officers is they see you driving with a handheld device.
There are a lot of other distractions, so why are we only focusing on the phone?
Distracted driving happens when you participate in any activity that takes your attention away from the act of driving. Anyone who drives can tell attest to the fact that there is a nearly endless list of possible distractions.
No matter the distraction, it falls into one of three categories: manual, visual, or cognitive. When you use a phone or other handheld electronic device you are participating in all three types of distractions at once. Putting the phone away eliminates two of these three types of distractions and put you in a position to be better prepared to anticipate and react to the road.