ITD offers holiday safe-driving tips

BOISE—Thanksgiving is a time for food, family, friends, and for many of us, travel. It’s also one of the deadliest times of year on our roadways because of drunk and impaired drivers.

That’s why this Thanksgiving weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) Office of Highway Safety is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind everyone: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive Sober During Thanksgiving.

“We know that for many folks, holiday celebrations involve some adult beverages,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “It’s okay for adults to choose to have a drink with their Thanksgiving dinner. What’s not okay is getting behind the wheel after drinking.”

Drunk-driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. According to NHTSA, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roadways.

In fact, during 2017, more than one out of every three traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving Holiday period involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Excessive drinking is prevalent over Thanksgiving due in part to cultural phenomenons like “Blackout Wednesday,” that highlights and even encourages the heavy consumption of alcohol throughout the holiday weekend.

“It’s a combination of a couple different things,” said Tomlinson. “We see a lot of young adults coming home for the holiday who choose to catch up with friends at a bar. There are also people who plan to cook all day Thursday who choose to go out for dinner and drinks on Wednesday.”

Tomlinson offered the following tips to stay safe on the road:

  • Plan a way to safely get home before the festivities begin.
  • If you are impaired, take a taxi, use a ride share, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which helps you identify a sober ride home and your location for pick up.
  • Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.





Airports across Idaho benefit from nearly $53M in federal and state grants

Federal Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants of about $39.5 million will help seven primary (commercial) airports across the state with needed improvements to their passenger and aviation facilities. In addition, AIP grants of almost $10 million will help 18 medium and small General Aviation airports across Idaho maintain and improve their aviation facilities.

A local match of $3.2 million is also included in the total.

“Idaho has a somewhat larger FAA program this year than previous years, with a few notable improvements,” explained Idaho Division of Aeronautics Airport Planning and Development Manager Bill Statham.

The Idaho Airport Aid Program (IAAP) will benefit 7 primary, 18 General Aviation, and 5 community airports throughout Idaho with $1 million. Here is a list of Gem State airports that received those grants:

– 4 primary airports (with commercial passengers) received 1 FAA grant each, totaling $10,159,682
Boise, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, and Twin Falls
– 2 primary airports (with commercial passengers) received 2 FAA grants each, totaling $2,355,315
Hailey and Pocatello
– 1 primary airport (with commercial passengers) received 3 FAA grants totaling $27,036,892 of which one was a supplemental FAA grant.
– 16 General Aviation airports received 16 FAA grants totaling $9,093,423.
Bear Lake County, Blackfoot-McCarley Field, Caldwell Industrial, Cascade, Challis, Coeur D’Alene -Pappy Boyington Field, Council Municipal, Gooding Municipal, Jerome County, Mountain Home Municipal, Nampa Municipal, Orofino Municipal, Priest River Municipal, Rexburg-Madison County, Salmon-Lemhi County, and Weiser Municipal
– 2 General Aviation airports received 4 FAA grants totaling $2,552,569 of which one was a supplemental FAA grant.
Driggs and McCall
– 25 primary and General Aviation airports got Idaho Airport Aid Program (IAAP) grants, totaling $646,426.
All listed primary and General Aviation airports
– 5 community airports received 5 IAAP grants totaling $223,471
Midvale, Rigby, Payette, Downey, and Mackay

Here is a complete list of airports receiving a grant, the amount of the AIP and IAAP grants, and the improvements that received funding.

Several Idaho airports are in the running for additional federal grants through a second round of FAA Supplemental Funding.

US-12 transformed through ITD’s efforts this summer

As early as February, ITD engineers were reaching out to the public to discuss a major undertaking for US-12 this season: two bridge replacements and 50 miles of paving.

That’s no small amount of work for the highway that follows the Lochsa River through abundant U.S. Forest Service lands and provides access to popular fishing spots and hot springs; it also gives the trucking community a scenic shortcut into Montana as it winds its way up to Lolo Pass.

Used by locals and tourists alike, this two-lane highway would see significant work and miles of orange barrels for the first time since 2000. ITD cautioned all drivers that working on so much in the remote location could lead to delays upwards of two hours.

“There are not many places to pass in the corridor, and with all of the summer traffic it normally sees, we definitely wanted to overstate delays rather than understate them,” project manager Janet Zarate said. “Thankfully, we were able to keep delays at 60 minutes or less all summer.”

ITD specifications limit delays through projects to 30 minutes, but the contractors working in the corridor phased the work to improve their efficiency and further minimize delays. Hotspots installed specifically for the projects provided connectivity that enabled project staff to promptly address any issues with delays.

Creative thinking also led to a partnership with Three Rivers Rafting out of Lowell, which ITD hired to shuttle bicyclists through the work zones.

“This partnership makes sense because at that time of year, the river doesn’t run as high, and there are fewer rafters,” resident engineer Joe Schacher said. “During their season, these companies routinely shuttle their customers up and down the river, and we didn’t see a reason for that to end this year. They have the right equipment, and we could give them an opportunity to economically benefit from construction.”

According to the rafting company, the shuttle operated for nine weeks and hauled 263 bicyclists who were visiting from all over the country and the world.

The service did not go unnoticed by the Adventure Cycling Association, which organizes some of those trips and was contacted personally by ITD engineers prior to construction.

In a letter to ITD, the association commended their efforts, which they said may be a model for construction managers in other states to follow to accommodate their groups.

As ITD engineers found ways to ease the impact of construction, they were also able to work with operations to advance more projects, including a preservation project between the two paving jobs.

In total, more than $17 million was spent to replace two bridges and resurface roughly 55 miles of US-12.

“We appreciate the patience of drivers who encountered us on the roads all summer,” Zarate said. “Now we look forward to years of driving on an improved highway.”

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

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:

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

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.”