Idaho DMV encourages customers to “skip the line, go online,” for many DMV transactions

The Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles continues to encourage customers to go online, to take care of many DMV services—that don’t require a trip to an actual office. The service is designed to reduce wait times and in-person gatherings due, in part, to COVID-19 social distancing protocols in county DMV offices.

“With the extension to some expiring vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses ending January 31, now more than ever, skip the line and go online to complete your transaction,” said DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez.

Some online services that can be completed safely, 24 hours a day at dmv.idaho.gov include:
• Renewing vehicle registration/license plates
• Checking and adding insurance policy information
• Ordering personalized plates
• Renewing a driver’s license or ID
• Purchasing a replacement license

There are some exceptions, including those for drivers who want to get a Star Card—Idaho’s Real ID. A full list of services that can be completed online is available at dmv.idaho.gov.

County DMV office hours vary statewide and are determined by county sheriffs and assessors. To contact your local office, business hours and phone numbers can be found at dmv.idaho.gov.

Subcommittee for the Idaho Transportation Board to review reclassification of Latah County highways on Thursday

Centerline photo of ID-9 south of Harvard

The Idaho Transportation Board 129,000-pound subcommittee will meet Thursday to review an application to reclassify the weight limits of several highways in Latah County. After review, the subcommittee could provide a recommendation to the Idaho Transportation Board, which will make a final decision on the reclassification, or require further analysis by the department.

The subcommittee will convene virtually at 2:15 p.m. PT / 3:15 p.m. MT to discuss engineering analysis completed by department staff and comments received during the public hearing process.

Members of the public may access the meeting via instructions located on the agenda. Since this meeting will be held after the Idaho Transportation Board meeting, participants should be prepared for any resulting delays.

Public comments were sought in December on the application submitted by Bennett Lumber Products to increase the limits on the following highways from 105,500 pounds to 129,000 pounds:

  • Idaho Highway 6 from the US-95 junction to Harvard
  • Idaho Highway 9 from Harvard to Deary
  • Idaho Highway 8 from Deary to the US-95 junction

No further public comment will be taken at the subcommittee meeting.

Download a photo of ID-9.

The application, analysis by ITD and FAQs about 129,000-pound loads are available at itd.idaho.gov/freight.

A final decision by the Idaho Transportation Board could be made as early as the next regular board meeting on February 18.

ITD to host a public hearing on the proposed action to abandon the Idaho Highway 75 Spur to Blaine County

Image of ID-75 in Blaine County

Members of the public are invited to provide comment regarding a proposed action for the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to abandon the Idaho Highway 75 Spur to Blaine County.

The ID-75 Spur, also known as Sun Valley Road, connects ID-75 in Ketchum to Trail Creek Road in Sun Valley from milepost 0.0 to 3.6.

During the month of January, ITD will host two events for the public to learn more about the action and comment on the proposal. Representatives from ITD, Blaine County, Ketchum and Sun Valley will be in attendance.

    • On Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6 p.m. ITD will host an hour-long webinar. The public may join the webinar by visiting the project website and clicking on the Zoom link under Option 1.

There will be a brief presentation followed by a Q&A session via the chat feature. A recording of the webinar will also be posted to the project website afterward. No official comments will be accepted during this event.

    • On Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. ITD will provide an opportunity for individuals to meet one-on-one and discuss this proposed action in-person at the Sun Valley City Council Chambers at 81 Elkhorn Road.

In-person meetings will be available on a limited basis and ITD requests that those who attend follow recommended guidelines relating to COVID-19. Interested members of the public should call (208) 886-7806 or email jessica.williams@itd.idaho.gov to schedule a 20-minute appointment during the timeframe listed above. Individuals who schedule an in-person meeting will be able to provide written or recorded testimony if desired.

Comments will be accepted through Friday, Jan. 29 and may also be submitted in the following ways:

• recorded by calling (855) 785-2499
• via the project website: itdprojects.org/projects/id-75-spur
• emailed to jessica.williams@itd.idaho.gov
• mailed to:
Idaho Transportation Department
Attn: Jessica Williams
216 South Date Street
Shoshone, ID 83352

ITD is required to conduct a public hearing and evaluation on this proposed adjustment of the State Highway System before the Board makes a final decision and an agreement with Blaine County is signed.

For more information on this public hearing or the proposed action for ITD to abandon the ID-75 Spur, please visit the project website or call (208) 886-7806.

Construction on US-95 north of CDA resumes for a final season

Photo of the signal at US-95 and Garwood Road

Due to warmer than average temperatures, construction of the Garwood Road overpass over US-95 is scheduled to begin Tuesday rather than later in the spring as part of a three-year project to improve safety north of Coeur d’Alene.

Work this season will include removing the existing signal, building an overpass and connecting the new overpass to the frontage road to the west. This is the final phase of improvements to this section of US-95, with construction expected to wrap up by fall 2021.

Traffic on Garwood Road will be detoured south to access US-95 at the new interchange at Idaho Highway 53 via the Old Highway 95 and Pope Road frontage roads, and US-95 traffic will no longer be able to directly access Garwood Road during and after construction. Bicyclists and pedestrians using the path to the east of US-95 will be detoured through the construction zone via Pope Road throughout construction.

Next week only, US-95 motorists may experience short delays for the removal of the traffic signal.

Work in the corridor began in July 2019, and since then, crews have installed a temporary signal at ID-53 and Ramsey Road, widened and realigned ID-53 and replaced the bridge over the railroad. Government Way, signed as Pope Road, was extended north of
ID-53 to serve as a frontage road. The new interchange at US-95 and Idaho Highway 53 opened in November 2020 and is the first of its kind in North Idaho. Traffic movements in this Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) are now centralized into one signal to improve efficiency.

When all construction is complete, US-95 will be safer and more efficient with new frontage roads, a new interchange, a new overpass, and a greater speed limit of 70 mph north of Boekel Road. With the two signals removed from US-95, the last signal heading north from Coeur d’Alene to Sandpoint will be at Lancaster Road.

Visit itdprojects.org/us95id53 to learn more and sign up for email updates.

Construction to occur this winter on two US-26 canal structures in Gooding County

Map of two canal structures in Gooding County

This winter, construction will start on two different canal structures on US-26 in Gooding County.

Work will first begin in early January to replace the canal structure near milepost 140 east of Bliss. Having reached its design life, the old structure will be replaced with a concrete box culvert.

Rehabilitation on a second canal structure, located near milepost 150 in Gooding, is expected to begin in February. During construction, the surface will be redone, bridge joints will be replaced and the railing will be repainted.

Drivers can expect temporary signals in both work zones to control one-way, alternating traffic with an expected wait time of two to three minutes. Construction in Gooding will require the temporary closure of the US-26 approach from California Street for a portion of the project. Signs will be in place to alert motorists.

“The majority of work on these structures must be completed while the canal is dry, which is why these projects typically take place during the winter months,” Project Manager Tom Logan said. “We expect both of these projects to be complete in April.”

Cannon Builders of Blackfoot is the primary contractor for both projects.

Make Idaho hands-free in 2021

cell phone is hands free mode while driving

This week marks the end of what has been a memorable year for all Idahoans. While 2020 has taught us many new terms like “mask up” and “social distancing” there is one phrase we’d like you to keep in mind for 2021 “hands-free Idaho.”    

That’s because beginning Jan. 1, police across Idaho will begin issuing citations for drivers using a handheld device. The law took effect in July of this year after passing through the Idaho legislature in the spring 

This change will affect drivers across Idaho. Here are three things you need to know about the changes: 

Police have been enforcing the law for nearly six months now 

Yes, police will begin to issue citations on Jan1, but they have been enforcing the new law since July. Police have been able to enforce the law since the beginning by stopping distracted drivers. However, until now, violators who have been stopped were let off with a warning. Beginning Jan. 1, violators can be issued a fine starting at $75 and going as high as $300 for multiple offenses during a three year period. 

This law replaces any local hands-free ordinances 

Over the last several years, a patchwork of cities and counties have passed hands-free driving ordinances at the local level. This caused some confusion for drivers as they went from one jurisdiction to the next. Idaho’s hands-free law preempts all local ordinances meaning no matter where you drive in Idaho, the expectation is for you to be hands-free. 

The law even applies at stop signs and traffic signals 

This new law requires drivers to put away electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway. This includes while temporarily stopped at a traffic signal or a stop sign.  

Hands-free driving is not risk-free driving. Drivers will still have to contend with other forms of distractions, but putting the phone away will help motorists be better prepared for whatever lies ahead on the road. 

New weather station to forecast avalanche hazard on US-12

An avalanche hasn’t reached US-12 east of Kooskia since 2008, but another weather station placed in the corridor this fall will help staff experts better forecast when the next one could happen.

“You can’t just come up with a cookbook formula for avalanches,” said Bill Nicholson, the leader of ITD’s Avalanche Crew that was formed in 2000. “There are infinite number of variables. We evaluate the strength of the snow that’s on the ground and then evaluate the incoming stressors like rain, wind, snow and temperature fluctuations.”

The new station, placed at 3,639 feet, will collect information on such stressors every hour to be analyzed by the team in Lowman. The team mainly spends their time monitoring Idaho Highway 21 between Lowman and Stanley, which is nationally ranked as one of the most avalanche-prone highways and sees 20 to 50 avalanches reach the pavement each year.

Over the last decade US-12 has been closed fewer than ten times due to a considerable hazard and has a return interval of every five or ten years.

“That’s a hard number to understand,” Nicholson said. “There’s no guarantee that you will have an avalanche in that time frame. You could have two avalanches in one year, or you could have no avalanches for several years.”

Still Nicholson’s team will visit the region to maintain the stations at Powell and Bald Mountain and travel to the pass to be on standby during extreme weather events.

The steep slopes from milepost 125 to 138 are the most concerning, with gates installed at the zone’s edges. Each fall Nicholson leads training on avalanche beacons and protocol for closing the highway for Foreman Mark Schuster and his crew.

“Every operator wears a beacon that transmits his or her location while on duty,” Schuster said. “In the event that an employee gets caught in an avalanche, others will be able to use their own beacons to find them, even buried in 50 feet of snow.”

With data from the weather stations—and the one that will be installed next year at Castle Butte—experts aim to better forecast when it is time to close the highway.

Idaho Ready: What you need to know about the chain up law

In extreme winter weather, chains can be a helpful tool to keep you safe while driving on slushy or snow covered roads. But are they required in Idaho?

Idaho’s chain up law does not apply to most drivers on the road, or even most places you drive.

The law only applies to commercial vehicles over 26,000 pounds on mountain passes, most notably on I-90 east of Coeur d’Alene and on US-12 at the Montana border.

This can be confusing, as chain laws vary by state. Neighboring states, like Washington, may require passenger vehicles without AWD or four-wheel drive use chains during the harshest of conditions.

In Idaho, chains are only required when conditions will prevent large vehicles from traversing grades without them, and the requirement is lifted as soon as possible to limit damage to the road. Operators with the Idaho Transportation Department activate special roadside signs alerting truck drivers to chain up as needed during the winter.

Some commercial vehicles, like logging trucks, tow trucks, and school buses are exempt from the law.

If the chain up law is in effect, then all drivers should be prepared for snowy conditions. Stay on top of road conditions or closures by visiting 511.idaho.gov or downloading the Idaho 511 app.

 

Idaho DMV issues extension on expiring registrations and driver’s licenses

The Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Motor Vehicles is providing an extension on expiring vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses. In an effort to reduce wait times at county DMV offices, non-commercial vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses that expire between September and December 2020, now have until January 31, 2021 to renew.

In mid-October ITD implemented the fourth and largest phase of the state’s DMV modernization project, moving the vehicle registration and titling system from a 1980s mainframe to an updated computer program. Eight million records were integrated into a “one person, one record” system, linking each Idahoan’s registration and title information with their license.

The new system has temporarily slowed vehicle registration and title processing, and ITD is working diligently to speed up transaction times. COVID-19 social distancing measures with limited hours and appointment times also contribute to a backlog in service. The extensions will allow customers more time to safely complete their business. ITD is doing everything possible to reduce wait times, especially as temperatures drop this fall and winter.

“People with expiring registrations and licenses don’t need to rush to the DMV. These extensions should give them some relief, help reduce crowd sizes, and also open up appointment windows where available at county offices,” said DMV Administrator Alberto Gonzalez. “We also encourage Idahoans to renew their registration online, by mail, or drop boxes at county offices.”

DMV online services, including driver’s license and registration renewal, are available 24/7 at dmv.idaho.gov. Please note, county DMV office hours are determined by county sheriffs and assessors, and vary statewide. Hours and contact information can be found at dmv.idaho.gov.

Reminder: Drive Insured! Insure your vehicle or lose your registration

Drive Insured! Be safe, be smart! Insure your vehicle or lose your registration.

A reminder to Idaho vehicle owners, drive insured or lose your registration.

Under Idaho law, vehicle owners without insurance coverage for two consecutive months risk having their registration suspended by the Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles.

The Drive Insured law (Idaho Code 49-1234) was passed during the 2019 Idaho legislative session, and went into effect in January 2020. As part of the DMV’s efforts to help Idahoans through the unprecedented COVID-19 emergency, implementation was initially delayed.

The DMV receives data from licensed Idaho insurance companies identifying vehicles with coverage. Owners without coverage for two consecutive months will receive a warning letter, then have 30 days to provide proof of insurance or obtain an exemption before their registration is suspended.

To reinstate a suspended registration, owners will need to provide proof of insurance and pay a fee of $75.

Impacted drivers should expect warning letters in the mail this October, though at any time, the DMV encourages Idahoans to use the Drive Insured self-reporting tool at driveinsured.itd.idaho.gov. This tool allows drivers to verify the DMV has a record of their insurance, report a change in their insurance situation, or file an exemption. While insurance companies are required by law to provide this data, some fail to do so and it may result in a vehicle incorrectly identified as not having insurance. Using the self-reporting tool is a simple step that can give drivers peace of mind if they are concerned the DMV is not up to date on their current situation.

Please note, county DMV offices are not involved with Drive Insured, and affected vehicle owners cannot report their insurance in-person there. Please use the Idaho DMV’s online self-reporting tool, or call 208.334.8075.

Some vehicles are exempt from this statute. The law applies only to non-commercial vehicles, and excludes trailers and off-highway vehicles. For a full list of frequently asked questions, visit dmv.idaho.gov and click the Drive Insured heading.