Recommendations to improve safety near Aht’Wy Plaza on U.S. 12/U.S. 95 delivered after conclusion of road safety audit

Traffic approaches on U.S. 12/95 near the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge in Lewiston.

An independent team assembled by the Idaho Transportation Department to conduct a road safety audit on U.S. 12/U.S. 95 in front of Aht’Wy Plaza delivered recommendations yesterday.

The team developed recommendations to address highway safety concerns near entrances to the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge after the deaths of two drivers within approximately three months. Team members came from Nez Perce Tribal Transportation Department, Nez Perce County Road and Bridge, the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, the Federal Highway Administration, ITD and ITD’s Office of Highway Safety.

They recommended an interchange, which is already planned for the east entrance, as the long-term solution to provide safe access from the plaza to the highway. The following phased options could be pursued by the Nez Perce Tribe with ITD before its construction.

  • Short-term options: All incoming traffic would enter at the west approach, and all exiting traffic would leave at the east approach.
  • Later options: Three possible options were presented and could be implemented individually or jointly.
    • Add an acceleration lane for eastbound traffic at the east entrance.
    • Widen the westbound right turn lane at the east entrance to create separation between turning and thru traffic.
    • Create ThrU-turns for both intersections. All left turns into and out of the plaza would be accomplished by first turning right and then making a U-turn to reach a destination.

Lowering the speed limit was considered but not recommended.

As part of the audit, the team evaluated road conditions and driver behavior. Factors not considered in the audit include construction costs, environmental impacts and right of way impacts.

A final report will be issued in three to four weeks. ITD will start assessing the viability of all recommendations with the tribe in the meantime.

ITD joins officers on US-12 patrol near Aht’wy Plaza

Cop car sits at entrance to Clearwater River Casino and Lodge in Lewiston.

Highway safety partners came together on December 28 to raise drivers’ awareness near the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge on US-12 in Lewiston.

Officers from several local agencies participated in a special patrol near the entrances and allowed ITD traffic engineer Jared Hopkins to ride along.

For four hours, officers looked for traffic infractions and handed out a letter—instead of a ticket—to encourage drivers to discuss safety at home. Nearly forty drivers received a letter.

The letter read:

Dear Driver:

Today you’ll see extra officers from local law enforcement agencies in the area.

We’re working together for the safety of yourself and other drivers on this stretch of US-12/US-95 in front of Aht’wy Plaza (Clearwater River Casino and Lodge). We’ve lost too many from our community at this location recently, and we hope the sight of so many police cars reminds you to stay alert, whether you are exiting the casino or driving past it.

Several of these agencies will also be participating in a road safety audit next month to look at data regarding speed limits, crashes and driver behavior. The goal is to identify strategies to improve safety immediately in the area while design continues for a full interchange. The interchange’s design will be completed next winter, with construction following once funding is secured.

Our efforts today are to raise awareness, rather than write tickets. Follow our efforts on Twitter with #US12casino #live #patrolpartners and stay safe.

From Nez Perce Tribal Police, Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police and Idaho Transportation Department

The joint patrol allowed law enforcement and ITD staff to watch the intersections together and share their thoughts.

“The patrol gave me the opportunity to observe, and I saw several vehicles failing to stop at the west exit and only one speeding,” Hopkins said. “I was also able to clarify how speed limits are set, so that the officers enforcing them knew why the limit is and remains 65 mph.”

Fresh perspectives will benefit the road safety audit, which is scheduled later this month.

View coverage of the event by typing in the hashtags or @IdahoITD on Twitter. For more information on commonly proposed ideas to improve safety in the area, visit the news tab at itd.idaho.gov/d2.

Collecting trash, even in the winter

An Adopt a Highway volunteer stops for a picture on Ramsey Road in CDA.

Trash is deposited along state highways year round, but most drivers tend to forget about it during the winter months when snow covers it temporarily.

That doesn’t apply to Richard White, a 63-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident who for nearly three years has independently roved city streets and state highways to pick it up.

White said he retired early from his job with Strate Line Crane & Rigging (now Barnhart Crane & Rigging) due to medical issues, and months later found himself tinkering on a neighbor’s bicycle. Given his health condition, he was surprised when his test trip down the driveway to get the mail worked out.

He decided to get back on his larger bike and gained access to mobility he had been missing. He also found trash on his travels, inspiring him to develop a loop through Coeur d’Alene and even toward Post Falls that covers more than 20 miles.

“I can’t see or walk very well, or even drive, but I can pick up trash,” White said.

White makes the trip every morning on his bike, wearing reflective gear and packing tools like plastic bags, a saw and rolls of wire on his back. His trips are so regular that often he does not even need to stop to pick up trash but rather slows down to catch what piled up in the last day.

He has talked to local business owners who let him throw the garbage he collects into their dumpsters, and now as an official participant of ITD’s Adopt a Highway program, the department’s operations crews will help by collecting the bags from the roadside.

His unusually mobile setup has attracted a lot of attention.

“People are pulling over constantly to ask me what I’m doing,” White said. “Some even offer to help once they learn.”

A testament to his dedication, White’s daily trips also serve as reminder to us all to do our part in keeping communities clean and healthy.

Appellate court rules in favor of US-95 expansion south of Moscow

The picture above shows four lanes of US-95 between Thorncreek Road and Genesee. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Idaho Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration on December 7 during the latest appeal about US-95 expansion south of Moscow.

Per the decision, ITD will finish right-of-way acquisition and submit a permit application regarding wetland mitigation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After those two steps, the project can be put out to bid for construction.

Work could begin as early as late summer 2019. Project details can be found online at us95thorncreek.com.

In January 2018, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition appealed an August 2017 ruling from the U.S. District Court for Idaho that found the two agencies appropriately followed the environmental process during the development of the project between Thorncreek Road and Moscow.

 

ITD earns North American Excellence nod for customer journey via historical photos

The Idaho Transportation Department recently earned a North American Excellence award for its Historical Photo Library archive, which has so far taken 50,000 citizens on a unique customer journey through the past.

Knowing that a people’s history is vitally important, and should be available without charge, ITD set about digitizing tens of thousands of historical photos in 2016. The free photo-retrieval service launched in May 2018.

ITD kept the process very simple, knowing that if retrieving the photos proved too complex, it would undermine efforts to make the photos accessible.

The site gives citizens the opportunity to uncover early Idaho highway history through a free online archive of more than 30,000 historical images.

ITD’s free photo collection is at itd.idaho.gov/photohistory.

Accessing the photos is simple. Just go to the site, enter your search criteria (name and location of the photo you want), then download the results in whatever size you need.

Below is a link to a short video that will walk you through the process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntVQnzofjsA&feature=youtu.be

The Idaho State Archives did all the digitizing of the photos under contract with ITD. The department hopes to continue adding to the collection, if funding is available.

The following groups may especially be interested in accessing these historical photos.

  • Genealogists
  • Historians
  • Idaho History Teachers
  • Idaho Homeschool Associations
  • Libraries
  • Museum Associations
  • Researchers
  • Universities/Colleges