Construction resumes on US-95 south of Moscow

Drone Shot of Construction from Oct. 17th, 2022

The 2023 construction season began today for U.S. Highway 95 south of Moscow. Work will take place near Eid Road and will include building a rock embankment for the site of the two new bridges and excavation on the north side of Reisenauer Hill. Controlled blasting is expected to resume weekly and continue throughout the spring.

Work in 2023 and 2024 will build two bridges over Eid Road and pave the new set of lanes. Each season of construction will generally occur between April and October.

Last year, earthwork was completed on more than 2.5 miles of the new alignment, putting the project at about 30 percent complete. More than $17 million has been spent so far on the project.

Expanding the highway to four lanes on a new alignment will not only add capacity and reduce travel times but also significantly improve safety.

It is anticipated that drivers will be able to take the new route in fall of 2024.

More project information is available at itdprojects.org/us95thorncreektomoscow.

As part of Governor Brad Little’s Leading Idaho initiative, the 2021 Idaho Legislature dedicated $126 million of one¬time funds from Idaho’s budget surplus to transportation projects statewide. The funds were split 60/40 between ITD and local jurisdictions. This project is partially paid for with ITD’s portion of the funds that will accelerate projects to replace bridges, restore pavements, and improve mobility in communities across Idaho.

Michael Johnson named new Idaho State Bridge Engineer

Longtime ITD Bridge employee Michael Johnson was named as the new State Bridge Engineer effective Christmas Day 2022. He replaces Matt Farrar in the position, who retired in October after 25 years in the job and 36 years overall at the department.

Johnson most recently served as a Design Group Leader in the Bridge Section.  He graduated from Idaho State University in 1991, then began accumulating over 30 years of bridge-design experience. He started his career in ITD’s Engineer-in-Training program, before joining the Bridge Section in April 1992.  As an EIT, Johnson spent two years in District 3, six months in HQ Materials, and the remaining time in the Bridge Section.

Johnson then took a hiatus from ITD to lead a bridge section for a consulting firm (HDR) from 2003 until July 2018.  He returned to ITD a month later to get more opportunities to design bridges in Idaho and spend more time with his wife, Kim.

“I needed a better work/life balance,” Johnson explained.

He and Kim have two grown sons — Zak (an engineer for ITD in District 5) and Parker. In addition to working as an engineer, he served 12 years in the U.S. Army reserves (1990-2002), rising to the rank of Captain, and has coached high school football for the last 13 years.  He has been coaching football at Nampa Christian High School since 2010, and is currently the varsity Special Teams Coordinator, Receivers Coach, and assistant the Offensive Coach.

“With my new position, I may need to give up some of those duties, but I am fortunate to be able to continue coaching,” Johnson explained.

Mike’s hobbies include mountain biking, running, coaching, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his family.

Johnson answered a few questions for this article:

Q: What are the goals and challenges you anticipate for this new position?
A: Goals:

“The ITD Bridge Section Staff is excellent, and I am honored to be a part of this team.  I want to give the staff the opportunity to work on the projects that interest them. We have some exciting project opportunities coming up in the next few years, including the Rainbow Bridge replacement. Giving our section the opportunity to work on this project and other high profile projects is exciting to me.

I also want to continue to integrate the Bridge Design with the Bridge Asset Management Section. In the past, these sections have worked mostly independently, even though these sections are both in Bridge. Over the past few years, we have been cross training staff to give the staff well rounded experience. Load-rating staff has been given the opportunity to design bridge projects, and design staff has been helping with load ratings. I want to get to the point where staff can seamlessly help the other group if there is a need.

Matt was well-known in the national bridge community — I want to continue ITD’s presence. I have been fortunate to gain important contacts with some of the leaders in the bridge industry through my work on a AASHTOWare Task Force and working with AASHTO Committee of Bridges and Structures.  I want to continue to participate on the national level, as well as giving other ITD Bridge staff the same opportunities to work on national committees.”

Challenges:
“I have big shoes to fill. Matt Farrar has been the State Bridge Engineer for over 25 years.  His experience will be missed. He was well-known throughout the state and national bridge engineering community.  Changing the face of ITD Bridge Section from Matt Farrar to Mike Johnson may take time.”

Johnson said the opportunity to help shape a new ITD Bridge section drove him to apply for the job.

Q: What made you want to tackle this new job?
A: “I enjoy mentoring younger staff. As the State Bridge Engineer, I will be in a position to provide mentorship to young engineers and technicians, and provide opportunities and resources for them to grow and succeed.

Also, this position gives me the opportunity to influence the direction of the bridge industry in Idaho and nationwide.“

ITD Chief Highway Engineer Blake Rindlisbacher, who will supervise Johnson’s new position, is also excited about the announcement.

“I’m excited to welcome Mike to his new role as State Bridge Engineer. Mike started his career with ITD over 30 years ago, when he was a part of ITD’s Engineer in Training program alongside (Division of Highways Construction & Operations Administrator) Dave Kuisti and I.  He then worked as a consulting engineer for a number of years before returning to ITD.  We are fortunate to have Mike on our team, and I’m confident that Idaho will continue to deliver a high quality bridge program under his leadership.”

Construction continues in Kellogg to replace two I-90 overpasses

Aerial shot of finished construction last year

Next week the Idaho Transportation Department will start the final construction season to improve safety by replacing the Interstate 90 overpasses at Division Street and Elizabeth Park Road in Kellogg.

Crews will first complete work to improve drainage throughout the work zone. After several weeks, crews will move onto replacing the westbound bridges, including full demolition and reconstruction. The final construction activities will include repaving both streets under the overpasses.

Construction is anticipated to start Monday, February 6, at which time traffic on I-90 will be restricted to one lane in each direction at all times through October.

Motorists should plan for the following impacts:

Division Street:

  • Both lanes will be open under the I-90 overpass with periodic closures as needed.
  • On-street parking under the overpass will not be allowed.
  • Sidewalks will be closed under I-90 with a signed pedestrian detour.

Elizabeth Park Road:

  • Drivers can expect one-way alternating traffic controlled by temporary traffic signals on Elizabeth Park Road under I-90.
  • In addition to the daily construction schedule, Elizabeth Park Road will be closed for several nights as crews complete work. Digital message boards will provide warnings at least one week in advance of any road closures.

In 2022 crews replaced the eastbound bridges and widened the eastbound on-ramp at Division Street.

The bridges date back to the 1960s. For up-to-date information on this project, please visit itdprojects.org/i90divisionelizabeth.

Construction will also begin later this spring in the Osburn area. Over the next two years, ITD will resurface I-90 from the Big Creek Exit to West Wallace Exit. This year crews will replace concrete with asphalt between Osburn and Wallace, and next year they will work between Big Creek and Wallace. Drivers can expect one lane closure in each direction on I-90 at all times during each construction season.

Travelers should check 511.idaho.gov to learn about traffic impacts.

Load restrictions to start again this Friday, be in place indefinitely

Long line of cars behind a truckLong line of cars behind a truck

Coeur d’Alene – In recent days, Idaho has experienced above average temperatures and precipitation which can lead to significant damage to highways, prompting state and local transportation agencies to enforce load restrictions. In an effort to reduce damage to roadways, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has made the decision to restrict several routes in North Idaho.

Starting in the evening hours of Friday (Feb. 3) load limit restrictions will be in place on four state highways in the region: SH-3, SH-5, SH-54 and SH-53. Crews will continue to closely monitor road and weather conditions to determine if more routes will be subject to load restrictions in the coming days and weeks.

“Earlier this week we were able to lift the restrictions as weather conditions stabilized, but looking ahead we need to reinstate them on the same highways as before, plus now on SH-53 from the Washington State Line to US-95,” Operations Engineer Ryan Hawkins said. “On two-lane highways like SH-53, commuters will need to plan extra time to get to their destinations and expect to be slowed down by commercial vehicles respecting the restrictions.”

Learn more about why these restrictions are important by watching this video.

Restrictions on state highways are noted on 511.idaho.gov or on the app, which was just updated last week, in the trucker mode. They apply to trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. On state highways, vehicles of this size are required to reduce their speeds to 30 mph and weigh no more than 14,000 pounds per axle. On U.S. highways, they still must reduce their speed to 30 mph but can weigh more in accordance with legally permitted loads. Breakup restrictions are not applied on interstates.

While restrictions have the potential to cause significant congestion on highways with a mix of commercial and commuter traffic, they are a necessary preventative measure that ultimately reduces impacts and costs to drivers and citizens in the long term.

As temperatures increase, the frozen base underneath the road thaws and becomes saturated with water, which creates a weaker section below the pavement that can lead to potholes and cracks. Heavy loads can cause rapid deterioration of pavement in these conditions.

Damage may result in months of additional repairs in the summer, diverting maintenance dollars from being invested into other routes.

These restrictions are only in place as long as necessary and save taxpayer dollars from being spent on damage that could have been prevented.

New Idaho 511 app and updated website are now live

 
BOISE – Upgrade how you navigate the state! The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has launched a new Idaho 511 App and updated the website. Starting today, January 23, 2023, drivers will need to download a new version to their mobile devices. The web address, 511.idaho.gov, and phone number, dial 511, will stay the same.

The old Idaho 511 app and the Idaho 511 Trucking app will not be supported after today, and users could miss crucial travel information if they don’t switch over. There is no dedicated trucking app with the new system. However, the new app has trucking information settings that users can turn on

The new Idaho 511 app has all the same tools to help you plan your trips, plus additional features. The new app displays special events that might impact travel, seven-day weather forecasts, highway oasis locations, and more. You can create an account, save custom routes and sign up for notifications when your routes are impacted. If you had an account with the previous 511 system, you will need to make a new account to save routes and set up notifications.

511 is a public service of the Idaho Transportation Department to help travelers access information about road conditions, traffic incidents, weather, and tourism information via the phone, on the web, or by smartphone app, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.  511 provides continual updates about weather-related road conditions, road work, commercial vehicle restrictions, road closures, and other travel information.

2022 sees reduction in Idaho traffic fatalities, grants available to continue the trend

BOISE – Idaho saw a reduction in traffic fatalities in 2022. Last year, 219 people were killed in crashes on Idaho roads, according to preliminary data from the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS). This is a 19 percent decrease from 271 deaths in 2021.

“It is nice to see progress, but 219 distinct tragedies show we still have a lot of work to do,” said OHS Manager Josephine Middleton. “These deaths have a profound impact on families, friends, and communities. We want to work with partners across the state to prevent future tragedies.”

OHS is accepting grant applications for Federal Fiscal Year 2024 (October 2023-September 2024). The goal is to eliminate deaths and serious injuries resulting from motor vehicle crashes by helping fund traffic safety projects. Local governments, law enforcement, school districts, colleges, universities, and non-profits are all encouraged to apply. Examples of past grant projects include enhanced police patrols for impaired driving, Seat Check Saturday for child passenger safety, pedestrian and bike safety education, and more.

Grant proposals must focus on influencing positive driver behavior.

“We know most Idahoans want to do the right thing behind the wheel. It’s who we are,” said Middleton. “These grants are about empowering people by providing the knowledge and resources to make their communities safer places to walk, bike, and drive.”

Applications are open now and close on February 28, 2023. Virtual pre-application training is available on Wednesday, January 25, at 9 a.m. MST and Thursday, February 2, at 2 p.m. MST. Email OHSTraining@itd.idaho.gov to register. 

Go to https://itd.idaho.gov/safety/?target=grant-programs-funding to learn more and apply for a grant.

Idaho Serves Military Veterans Through CDL Waiver

The Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is working to bring more veterans and military members into the commercial trucking industry. Idaho offers two forms of commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing waivers for people with experience driving commercial vehicles in the military.

In the past, applicants needed to print and fill out the forms by hand. In late 2021, DMV team members Heather Perkins, John Barsness, and Caleb Forrey decided to transition to fillable forms to improve customer service. The fillable forms are easier on the applicant and faster to review because the fields are typed rather than handwritten.

Now in 2023, with streamlined forms, the DMV has launched new ways to spread the word about the program. The DMV is promoting military CDL waivers with social-media posts and a new poster that will be distributed to county DMV offices, ports of entry, and military and national guard bases.

Gov. Little’s transportation priorities in State of the State address

Governor Brad Little gave his State of the State address Monday (Jan. 9, 2023), presenting his proposed budget, which includes a transportation focus on Making Generational Investments in Critical Infrastructure.

Link to entire State of the State address

In recent years, Governor Little and the Idaho Legislature have championed investments in critical infrastructure without raising taxes or fees. Efforts have focused on bonding for new road capacity and addressing the deferred maintenance backlog facing state and local roads. The Governor’s budget builds off these previous investments, and:

  • Invests $96.8 million to fully fund the known ongoing transportation safety and capacity gap. This will make Idaho roads safer for drivers with capacity enhancements and safety features like widened and realigned roadways and turn lanes.
  • Adds $200 million as the second tranche of an effort to improve local system bridges, $35 million to improve airports throughout the state, and $10 million for pedestrian and safety projects. This investment will improve approximately one-third of deficient local bridges to improve safety for all Idahoans.
  • Reserves $100 million for economically significant local transportation projects that are beyond the reach of local government finances.
  • Pays off all callable debt in the GARVEE transportation bond program for the 2014 bond series ($37.5 million), averting interest and freeing up additional ongoing transportation funding.

 

The Dos and Don’ts of driving near snow plows

Plow clearing SH-6 near White Pine Campground

Snow has already fallen in the state, so drivers should get ready to drive with plows this winter. Talking about sharing the road with plows is really more of a discussion on what you shouldn’t do.

What shouldn’t you do?

Don’t pass. The road behind a plow is always better than the road in front of a plow. And all the snow, rock and other debris comes out of a plow at a high rate of speed––if you pass and try to drive through all that, the weight of the snow could force your vehicle off the road or break windows.

Of course, that’s assuming you don’t run into the plow while attempting to pass it.

Plows trucks weigh up to 58,000 pounds and sport not one, but two, plows. Everyone is familiar with the plow on the front, which is 12 feet long and takes up a whole lane. People tend to forget about the second, smaller plow positioned on the right side of the truck. It’s called a wing plow.

That’s the one folks run into. When plows are pushing snow, it comes up over the top of the plow and obscures all the lighting and flags. Again, plows weigh up to 14 times the average vehicle, so running into them is going to have an impact.

While not illegal to pass a plow, it’s recommended you never do so on the right side because of the wing plow. Law enforcement can and will cite drivers who act recklessly or carelessly and pass when it isn’t safe.

Operators will often work in pairs, especially on multi-lane roadways like freeways, to get snow pulled from the far left side all the way to the shoulder. Don’t try to pass several plows at once or drive between them.

Plows are large vehicles with blind spots, even when not working in blizzard conditions or pushing snow. Stay out of their blind spots.

If you’re going to pass, it’s important to consider where the snow is going. Our drivers typically push snow to the right, but in some cases, they will push snow into the median.

Sometimes there isn’t room to push snow into the median, or there aren’t enough operators available to tandem plow. You may see a plow working by itself on a freeway, pushing snow into the fast lane on the first lap and then moving it all the way off the roadway on a second pass. There may be enough room to pass safely on the right – but first slow down and observe where the snow coming out of the plow lands on the road before you make your decision.

When in doubt, don’t pass.

What should you do?

  • Drive for conditions. The posted speed limit is set based on ideal conditions, so in winter you’ll have to slow down. It’s on the driver to determine a safe speed.
  • Maintain at least a three-second following distance. On slick roads, you’ll need more time to react and stop if necessary.
  • Move over. Any time emergency vehicles—which include tow trucks—are flashing their lights, you are legally required to slow down and move over into another lane if possible.
  • Leave early. Giving yourself extra time will make it that much easier to make smart decisions.
  • Download 511. No need to guess what your route looks like – download the 511 app or visit 511.idaho.gov to see road conditions and if there are any reported crashes.

As you head out on the road this winter, keep these safety tips in mind so that you and our plow drivers can make it home safely.