Law enforcement agencies unite to honor Jacob Leeder this holiday season

Every holiday season, law enforcement agencies place extra officers on the roads to patrol communities to prevent impaired driving. This year, six agencies in Kootenai County have joined forces in memory of Jacob Leeder.

Jacob Leeder was the son of Sergeant Tim Leeder with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. He died last December after the vehicle he was riding in was struck by a drunk driver.

To honor him, officers from Spirit Lake PD, Coeur d’Alene PD, Post Falls PD, Rathdrum PD, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and Idaho State Police will conduct emphasis patrols through the holidays, with the first set for November 21-24.

Other emphasis patrols will take place Dec. 21-22 and Dec. 29-31. Officers on most emphasis patrols will be able to partner with county prosecutors to apply for evidentiary blood draw warrants for impaired drivers who refuse to cooperate with breath tests.

Local law enforcement agencies note that those who refuse to cooperate with breath testing tend to have a significant history of DUIs and a high blood alcohol content when tested.

For each emphasis, members of the public can follow along from home by tuning into the agencies’ social media accounts for a virtual ride along or following #choosewisely.

“Troopers, officers and deputies will be out in force and working across our normal boundaries,” Idaho State Police Captain John Kempf said. “We hope you choose wisely and find a sober driver this holiday season.”

Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17, recognizes critical safety role

BOISE – First responders, who play a critical safety role every day in managing traffic incidents in Idaho, are being recognized throughout the state Nov. 11-17 during Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, as officially proclaimed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

These responders help fight rising costs by helping to clear roadways faster and protect drivers.

“These men and women are truly our unsung heroes on the highway,” said Gov. Otter. “They keep commerce in our state moving and ensure we get to work and back home on time. They work all hours of the day and night, and even on holidays, to keep our families and loved ones safe.

“This week, and every week, I encourage motorists to help keep them safe, by slowing down and moving over when you see them doing their jobs.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and often require police, fire, emergency medical services, tow companies, and transportation workers. In an emergency, those first responders are critical to the protection of life and reduction of secondary crashes.

They also play a critical economic role.

While the cost of traffic incidents has increased by 85% in the last four years according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), responders help to reduce those staggering costs — $6 million average societal cost for a fatal crash, and $126,000 on average for an injury crash.

Those costs include lost earnings, medical bills, emergency services, property damage, and travel delays, among others.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho have contributed substantially to the prompt treatment of patients, clearance of roadways, and increased mobility of travelers. Rubbernecking or blocked lanes from crashes account for up to a quarter of all congestion.

Travelers can in turn protect responders by driving engaged and moving over when incident responders are present. Tragically, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers.

“They ensure our safety; we can do our part to ensure theirs,” said ITD Emergency Program Manager Neal Murphy.

Extra officers at Post Falls railroad crossings in October remind drivers to be safe

Recent collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Idaho Operation Lifesaver (IOL) gave officers multiple opportunities to remind drivers to be safe at railroad crossings in Post Falls.

Known as Officer on a Train, the operation provides officers a unique opportunity to work as a team with their counterparts. IOL allows an officer to join train engineers in the engine car for one day to observe driver behavior at crossings so that he or she may radio other officers staged nearby to address unsafe or illegal actions.

As part of the last operation, officers from Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, Post Falls Police Department and Idaho State Police were able to make contact with 52 drivers. Twelve warnings and 31 citations were given, ranging from speeding to failing to yield.

Six officers in total spent 42 hours at the major crossings in Post Falls, including the Union Pacific crossing at Spokane Street that received warning lights and gates earlier this year as part of an ITD project.

IOL Director Travis Campbell said the effect of those improvements was extremely noticeable.

“Before lunch we would have as many as 75 violations at these crossings in Post Falls,” Campbell said. “That day we didn’t get nearly as many, and I believe those improvements are responsible in part for that decrease.”

Improvements at Spokane Street, as well as more at Grange Avenue in Post Falls, were funded by the federal Rail-Highway Crossing Program.

The program benefits Idaho by providing safety enhancement projects and supporting educational and law enforcement activities. For the last seven years, ITD has administered an average of $2.2 million every year from this program.

ITD seeks comment next Thursday for the redesign of the I-90/ID-41 interchange

The Idaho Transportation Department invites the public to view and comment on proposed alternatives for the redesign of the Interstate 90 and Idaho Highway 41 interchange at an open house next Thursday, November 8.

Members of the public may arrive at any time between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Post Falls Police Department.

ITD organized a value planning process to bring together multiple stakeholders—including representatives from the city of Post Falls, Kootenai County and the Federal Highway Administration—to develop and evaluate designs to improve safety and mobility at this intersection. Of the nine alternatives ultimately proposed by the team, two were selected to be presented for public comment at this meeting.

Those unable to attend may visit the project website to learn more and to comment. Comments will be accepted between November 8 and November 27.

Top ITD innovations of 2018 focused on safety, savings, and service

Innovate ITD!, in its fifth year, has so far saved Idaho taxpayers more than $8.5 million in efficiencies that are applied directly back into maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges. Along the way, more than 550 of the innovations have improved customer service, and hundreds more have enhanced mobility or directly impacted safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

ITD’s innovation effort is statewide, employee-driven, and is focused on finding safer, easier and less expensive solutions. It has become a model nationally for organizations looking to get better.

The 2018 Best of the Best competition spotlights innovations in each of seven categories central to the department’s main goals: safety, mobility, economic opportunity, customer service, employee development, time savings and cost savings.

“It is exciting to celebrate employee efforts to make things safer and better,” said ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “Recognizing and celebrating the spirit of innovation that exists in every ITD employee is what Innovate ITD! is all about.”

“The Best of the Best Winners were selected by employees as outstanding representations of innovations and innovators from throughout ITD.”

Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:

• Received 1,428 ideas from employees
• Implemented 951 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of $8.5 million*
• Realized 188,322 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created 551 customer-service improvements

* The savings in time and money are being used to maintain roads and bridges and provide better customer service.

Here are the seven category winners in ITD’s Best of the Best 2018:


In Safety, a hand injury sustained by a worker in another region by reaching into a tailgate to wrestle a rock loose inspired a crew in District 2 to solve a common problem. Bud Converse, Moscow Foreman, went to his crew with a possible solution. Within a few hours they’d welded a pipe to the truck, painted it and placed a bar in the pipe. The aptly named “Bud Bar” is within easy reach of the back of the truck. It is used like a crowbar to wedge open an obstructed tailgate without endangering anyone.

In Mobility, the state’s first double Flashing Yellow Arrow traffic signal helps move traffic through one of the busiest intersections in Coeur d’Alene. The new double FYA signal allows two lanes of traffic to turn left after yielding to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. The signal more quickly gets passenger vehicles on their way and commercial haulers to market with goods and services.

When bridges are hit by an over-height vehicle, a road can be closed for months, costing taxpayers millions. In the Economic Opportunity category, an innovation was developed to combat this. The minimum bridge heights are measured by bridge inspectors and this information is communicated to the permitting department in an easy-to-follow Google map. They can see which bridges trucks can safely pass under, increasing safety, and saving time by reducing bridge closures.

In the Customer Service category, improvements to the 511 Traveler Services platform will allow drivers to track weather conditions on certain highway routes. ITD partnered with the National Weather Service in Pocatello to add a forecast feature. The platform takes specific forecast information from areas along a section of highway, and creates an overall forecast for that route. This gets useful information to the traveling public, at their fingertips.

The Time Savings winner is an innovative new plow-blade changing cart. In a bad winter, blades have to swapped out up to five times per month. This idea will minimize the old back-breaking method of changing and installing blades by hand. The cart serves as the holder during these operations. They go on easier, and more safely allows crews to get plow trucks on the road more quickly.

In Cost Savings, teamwork saved millions of dollars. District 6, 5 and 4 combined 17 bridge repairs under one contract. This allowed ITD to shave nearly 20 years off the timeline for replacing these bridges, saved about $1.7 million in design costs, and another $3 million off construction. The 6-5-4 project won the 2018 AASHTO President’s Award for Planning. Each of the bridges is over 50 years old, and all will be brought up to current design standards and will be wider & longer.

In the Employee Development category,, new employee onboarding focuses on retaining good employees. Approximately 25% of ITD’s employees started with the department in the last two years. Employee orientation generally takes place on Day One and often includes only routine paperwork. Onboarding, though, is an experience that lasts through the employee’s first 6-18 months.

For new employees, introducing them to the “ITD way” early in the process and allowing them to take ownership of their job is another step in ITD’s mission of being the best transportation department in the country.

And there you have it – this year’s Best of the Best, combining safety, ingenuity and efficiency!

Watch the 2018 Best of the Best video.

Remembering the Goff Bridge challenge 20 years later

 

Nearly twenty years later, the Goff Bridge—better known as the Time Zone Bridge near Riggins—remains one of a few tied-arch bridges in Idaho.*

But its unusual design is not the only thing that makes it unique.

The distinctive bridge stands out due to the dedication of several ITD engineers who oversaw its successful replacement, which began in 1996 and lasted until 1999.

At that time, Dave Kuisti was not yet the district engineer but was graduating from ITD’s Engineering in Training Program.

“I moved to the maintenance yard at Lucile for more than two years to be the project engineer,” Kuisti said. “My wife wasn’t particularly thrilled about the location.”

Located on US-95, the Goff Bridge would be a challenge to replace. The structure, built in 1935, spanned the Salmon River and served 2,000 vehicles per day, as well as 12 river outfitters in nearby Riggins.

The new structure would have to withstand consistent pressure from a slow landslide at its south end, be tall enough to stay above high water and wide enough to accommodate two trucks crossing at once.

To maintain mobility for the traveling public on the state’s primary north-south route during the construction of this three-year project, the design and construction teams planned to temporarily relocate the original structure to serve as the detour. It was the best option given the absence of an alternative route and the close confines of the canyon.

Hydraulic jacks and an estimated 72 hours would be required to move the 1.24 million-pound steel bridge to its new location 65 feet to the west. At that time US-95 would be completely closed to traffic through Riggins, prompting ITD to stipulate stricter penalties should contractor Harcon Inc. cause additional delays.

A 1996 Spokesman-Review article quoted Kuisti as saying that he felt “pretty confident” that the structure would not fall into the river. In a follow up article in 1997, public affairs specialist Ralph Poore mentioned the engineers’ eagerness to transition to the next phase of the project and described the construction challenge as “the kind of thing that makes and breaks careers.”

To advertise the closure, ITD placed notices all over the state, and even out of the state in Lolo, Montana, which sits on US-12 just across the state line. In the end, US-95 was reopened 36 hours ahead of schedule.

Watch a video of the relocation.

Robert Gordon, the lead inspector involved with surveying the area for the relocation of the bridge, said he was relieved when it went as smoothly as it did.

“It was a very critical move,” Gordon said. “If anything went wrong, the state was basically cut in two and would require a 500-mile detour to get from South Idaho to North Idaho.”

“It was not without its own tribulations,” Kuisti said. “In the end though, we got a pretty amazing structure that will be there long after I’m gone.”

According to its latest inspection, the Goff Bridge will likely last another thirty to fifty years.

*The Goff Bridge was the only tied-arch bridge in the state until the Shoup Bridge over the Salmon River was built last year south of Salmon.