ITD launches annual winter driving safety campaign in advance of Thanksgiving travel

The Idaho Transportation Department is launching the annual winter safety campaign “Idaho Ready” to help drivers prepare for challenging conditions on the state’s highways. This launch comes as winter weather is expected to bear down on much of the state and holiday travel begins.

The campaign offers information via social media and a page on the department’s website to help drivers safely arrive at their destinations.

“Short videos will present information on using Idaho’s 511 Traveler Information system as a resource before heading out on the highway, how to maintain your vehicle during winter months, and driving safely in winter conditions,” said Reed Hollinshead with ITD’s Office of Communication. “Important safety information will be posted regularly to Facebook, Twitter, and the ‘Idaho Ready’ web page. New information this year will address new drivers on Idaho roads — those who recently moved here or have recently been licensed.”

Additional information on winter safety can be found at itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce.

Follow ITD’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IdahoTransportationDepartment, or the department’s Twitter account at IdahoITD.

Drivers are also encouraged to check the new and improved Idaho 511 Traveler Information website at 511.idaho.gov for the latest road conditions and for updates as those conditions change.

Duran brings vision, motivation to Public Transportation Manager’s role

Ron Duran will soon move from the Division of Motor Vehicles to become the new Public Transportation Manager. Duran, currently the Driver Records Program Supervisor, will ascend to the PT management position Dec. 1. The position has been vacant since Jeff Marker left to become the Aeronautics Administrator last month.

“I am thrilled for this new challenge and I am humbled by the opportunity to lead an exceptional team,” Duran said. “I can’t wait to get started building relationships with my new team, stakeholders, and industry.”

Duran started at the Idaho Transportation Department in July 2018 in Driver Records, overseeing a staff of 15 employees. The unit processes suspensions, hearings, court packets, SR22s, and more.

“Leaving the DMV is bittersweet, as the people and leadership are phenomenal,” Duran added. “I am eager for this new chapter in my career and to build on the success of the Public Transportation Office.”

Duran came to the department after 10 years as an operations manager for a private security contractor. He attended Boise State University.

He volunteers as an EMT in Wilder, and has served on the State-2-State Governance Committee as the Idaho Representative.

“Ron has an amazing ability to envision what is possible and make positive changes,” ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes said. Duran will report to Stokes in his new position.

“This vision, combined with his proven record on motivating teams and partnership, will be something that will help us find the best way to provide transportation services and to be the best department,” Stokes added.

ITD & Governor’s Office collaborate to promote Traffic Incident Safety Week awareness

 

Idaho Gov. Brad Little and ITD collaborated Tuesday, Nov. 12 to bring attention to the importance of traffic incident responders during National Traffic Incident Management Awareness Week.

Gov. Little signed a proclamation Tuesday recognizing the importance of traffic managers and incident responders.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and may require law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, tow operators and transportation workers. The ability for them to respond quickly is critical for protecting life and reducing secondary crashes.

“The traveling public can do their part to protect responders by driving in an engaged manner and moving over when incident responders are present,” Gov. Little said.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho contribute substantially to caring for victims in these crashes, and the quick clearance of our roadways increases mobility of the traveling public and has the added benefit of greatly enhancing safety on the highways.

Improved, updated 511 Traveler Information System launched

Note: The image above is what a visitor to the 511 site will see – an invitation to try out the new platform.

BOISE – With winter driving weather bearing down on much of the state, a new and improved version of the 511 Traveler Information System launched today (Thursday, Oct. 31). The improved site, still accessible at 511.idaho.gov, offers an updated look and new features for the 14-year-old service.

“The new website offers a new, more intuitive user interface,” explained 511 Manager Tony Ernest. “We are simplifying and consolidating — making it easier to use and find the information people want.”

“We’re taking the best from multiple pages before and rolling it into one location,” Ernest explained. The improvement also means that all platforms – desktop computer, tablet, cell phone — will be supported by that one single site.

Rather than offering a separate version for commercial vehicle operators, the improved 511 has a special “Truckers” mode more customized to their specific needs.

Ernest also said the improved site welcomes feedback. “The site lets you offer your feedback to us,” Ernest said. “Based on what you tell us, we will continue to modify and improve the site over the next few months.”

The 511 service has proven to be a valuable source of information on road conditions statewide. The 511 slogan — “Know B 4 U Go” — is a reminder that it is best to get road condition information before you get behind the wheel and start your trip, and to factor in conditions along your travel route and at your destination.

The 511 service in Idaho launched in November 2005. Since then, citizens have accessed the 511 service 41 million times, including 5.6 million times last year.

The system accesses 150 traffic cameras statewide.

Idaho’s system came when the Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the nation’s traveler information phone number in 2000.

Nearly two dozen enhancements have been made since 511 was unveiled. In addition to four state awards, in 2010 the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials recognized the system with a national President’s Transportation Award for Traffic Safety.

511.idaho.gov – Know B4 U Go

ITD sets the innovation bar high with second Idaho finals appearance

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) again set the standard for state agencies with a second appearance Oct. 23 in the Idaho Technology Council Innovative Company of the Year awards. ITD remains the only public-service state agency to make the final grouping. Not just once, but twice — 2016 and 2019.

The Power of Ideas celebration honored some of Idaho’s most innovative people and private technology companies.

“The innovative Company of the Year recognition only validates what I discovered my first year working at ITD — that our employees are dedicated to the ITD mission and resourceful and responsible in their use of resources,” said Chief Administrative Officer and ITD Innovation Champion Charlene McArthur. “All we needed was a common language and process to showcase our efforts. That became our innovative effort, Innovate ITD!”

The ITD nomination highlighted some big accomplishments. Since the department launched Innovate ITD five years ago, ITD employees have submitted more than 1,500 ideas and implemented 1,000. Because of those implemented ideas, ITD has saved more than 200,000 hours, found more than 600 improvements for our customers, and re-directed more than $10 million in savings and efficiencies back to critical repairs of the state’s roads and bridges.That main difference between ITD and the private sector really seemed to resonate with the judges and attendees – that the agency’s innovations benefit everyone in the state, not just those who purchase a product.

“This is an employee-driven effort,” said McArthur. “ITD’s innovations are created by our employees, and most of them are created by teams that include front-line employees.”

Idaho’s state transportation system connects people to jobs, education, healthcare, places of worship, cultural and sporting events, recreational opportunities, and family members. It helps ensure security at home and abroad. A strong transportation system is critical to the nation’s and Idaho’s economy. A robust, growing economy requires a strong transportation system.

“Continuous improvement is one of the department’s key strategies to deliver value to the taxpayers,” McArthur explained. “ITD innovation also serves as a performance benchmark for other state agencies in Idaho and Departments of Transportation across the country.”

ITD wins two AASHTO President’s Awards for excellence in transportation industry

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department won a pair of President’s Awards from the American Association of Transportation and Highway Officials (AASHTO), signifying excellence in the transportation industry from among all 50 state departments, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

ITD won in the Environment category for a project on US-12 in north-central Idaho and in the Research category for a project in southwestern Idaho on US-95.

The announcement was made Oct. 8 at AASHTO’s annual meeting, which was held this year in St. Louis, Missouri.

ITD has won 15 AASHTO President’s Awards since 2010.

The US-12 Environment project (pictured above) involved two bridges on the highway, plus repaving the 50 miles of pavement between the two structures.

The highway borders the pristine 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. The Lochsa River is a Wild and Scenic River, and is a breeding ground for steelhead, bull trout and salmon. ITD partnered with Idaho Fish & Game to allow fish to be carefully counted and relocated from the water under the bridges. In addition, all equipment on the project was rinsed before entering the work corridor and inspected by professionals to ensure noxious weeds were not transported outside the project area.

ITD pushed start dates for paving operations later into the summer to avoid the peak of rafting season, when shuttles are busy in the corridor. This partnership expanded to include shuttling pedestrians and cyclists through the corridor during paving.

The bridge plans outlined methods to avoid impacting a nearby Native American tribal property.

“It is such an outstanding honor to be recognized for this work on the scenic US-12 Lochsa Corridor,” ITD north-central Idaho District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “This award could not have been achieved if not for the enormous collaborative effort that went in to this work. Many agencies, individuals and groups came together to ensure not only the protection of the environment, but also to find a successful path forward to achieve the work so people traveling and experiencing the corridor could do so safely and efficiently.”

The Research project (pictured below) on US-95 just south of the Marsing Port of Entry in Owyhee County was the solution to a problem with swelling clay under the roadbed. The clay was swelling up to seven inches in spots and damaging the pavement, thus shortening the life of the roadway, while also creating safety issues. The solution involved the use of geocells and put Idaho on a short list – Israel is the only other place to use this technique.

Geocells are typically used for erosion control on the ground’s surface, so it was a new experience for ITD, the contractor, and the manufacturers of the materials.

A research project looking into the viability of using geocells was conducted by Boise State University and sponsored by ITD.

“I am very proud of our entire ITD team for their accomplishments with this unique project,” explained ITD Southwest Idaho District Engineer Amy Revis. “I also want to acknowledge Boise State University for their collaboration with us on this project. This project is an excellent example of how our team always rises to the occasion when they are faced with a challenge. They are willing to put in the extra effort and think outside the box to find the best solution for the traveling public.”

There have been no crashes on that stretch of roadway since the geocells were put in place, according to Owyhee County Sheriff Chief Deputy Lynn Bowman.

 

 

 

 

ITD’s top 2019 innovations celebrated as Best of the Best

Best of the Best: Innovate ITD

The culmination of the year’s innovation efforts for the department put the spotlight on several money- and time-saving ideas that improve efficiencies, stretch taxpayer dollars and improve services for the main ITD customer – the road user.

This year’s Best of the Best were selected after Innovation Stewards from the districts and divisions named their favorites and the Innovative Business Practices team weighed in. Employees from all over the department then cast their votes over a two-week period to arrive at the final list. The winning innovations and teams were announced at the all-employee pizza party Sept. 19.

“Innovation is just how we get better every day,” Chief Administrative Officer and ITD Innovation Champion Char McArthur said at the event.

Watch the Best of the Best video shown at the pizza party here.

In case you missed it, here they are again:

More than a third of the innovations submitted in FY19 were in the Safety category, a clear reflection of the emphasis that the department has put on the safety of employees and safer overall operations. That brings us to our first Best of the Best winner:

SAFETY
Title – ITD PPE Program
The department’s focus on employee safety led to an upgrade in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) last year, including more reflective nighttime clothing, a change in the color of our safety vests so that drivers could better see ITD employees working on the side of the road, and an upgrade in safety footwear as ITD unveiled a Boots Program. These ideas all came from hearing the safety concerns of employees. The first pillar in ITD’s mission statement is Your Safety, and that clearly extends beyond just the safety of the traveling public to our own workers!

COST SAVINGS
Title – Jersey Barrier Puller
ITD’s Caldwell maintenance shed came up with an innovation last year that saves time, reduces employee risk, and could save tens of thousands of dollars in equipment costs per location. The crew often has to realign jersey barriers that are hit by cars. It took them days to cover the miles of barriers within the urban Interstate 84 corridor. So, they machined a hydraulic attachment for a plow truck that is much safer and faster than the old method. The new barrier mover is slated to save more than 1,000 hours and about $21,000 in equipment costs for the Caldwell shed. Other areas may see more or less savings, based on the amount of time devoted to realigning median barriers.

MOBILITY
Title – Auxiliary Brine Applicator
In the Mobility category, the Montpelier maintenance shed came up with an innovation that quickly applied salt brine to areas of greatest need, or to add brine directly to granular salt. The goal, said Foreman DeLoy Romrell, was to “make us more efficient” by adding a brine application system to the trucks putting salt on the roads and specifically targeting wheel paths to clear those areas more quickly for the public. They outfitted three of their salt trucks with gravity-flow brine bars on the back of the sanding chute and also built in an extra brine saddle tank. The spray nozzle helps them target “trouble” areas like bridges, overpasses, school zones or curves.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
Title – Port of Entry Enhancement
Updating 25-year-old systems for credentialing motor carriers improves the service our ports of entry give commercial drivers. Designing, building and implementing this new system will enhance the accuracy of data. It also saves about 15,000 hours for our people by automating manual data-entry processes. In the case of a customer who is meeting all requirements satisfactorily, they are able to bypass the POE, thus increasing the safety and economic mobility of freight on Idaho’s highways. The POE team saw a need and an opportunity to enhance the systems to provide staff with a tool to achieve ITD’s mission and provide the best service to customers.

EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT
Title – Training Skills for Subject Matter Experts
Sometimes the people who know their topic better than anyone else, lack the skills to convey that knowledge to other employees who can help them. With an increasingly new and inexperienced workforce, there is a need for Subject Matter Experts to pass along their experiences and technical know-how. The ITD Training & Development staff is offering courses specifically designed to fill that gap. Trainers David Nichols and Renae Beal put together a training course for SMEs in the Consulting Services group. Beal taught the course again for the DMV Policy and Program Management team, and Nichols said the class, called Introduction to Training Design & Delivery, will be offered starting this fall. And all of this translates to better customer service.

TIME SAVINGS
Title – Open Door Visibility
When Allen Ploss from the Jerome Maintenance crew found himself with a bunch of scrap pieces of reflective tape that were destined for the garbage bin, he thought of another time-saving use that would help improve safety for those on the road. Allen took the scraps and applied them to the inside of the truck’s door on the doorjamb.  When the door is open and sticking out from the side of the vehicle, the reflective tape will shine in the lights of an approaching vehicle at night, preserving the safety of the worker and the driver. The reflective strips can also be affixed to the outer edges of a snowplow for safer nighttime or low-light operation.

CUSTOMER SERVICE
Title – SNOW (Safely Navigating Our Winter)
Preparing inexperienced drivers for winter conditions on Idaho roads is a challenge each year. The winner in the Customer Service category comes from the S.N.O.W. team — Safely Navigating Our Winter. The SNOW team, with members from divisions and districts all across the department, developed an outreach program to share safety message with young drivers. To accomplish this, the team developed a plan that included everything from a presentation outline and ITD snow-operations facts, to classroom activities and winter-related handouts and giveaways. Developing an outreach packet was just the beginning, and S.N.O.W. is working on a large-scale push of the program this fall and winter. The ultimate goal is to repeat the outreach year after year. By reaching these young drivers before the snow flies, they hope to encourage safer winter driving.

It won’t be an easy task, but ITD knows how to make big things happen.

Making it safer, more efficient, saving time and money, and improving service — that’s the heartbeat of Innovate ITD!

ITD Director Ness presents to U.S. House Subcommittee July 11

ITD Director Brian Ness presented to the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 11 regarding the importance of research and innovation in maximizing transportation budgets.

It was likely the most significant national stage for an ITD Director since Darrell Manning was the national American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) president in the early ‘70s.

Ness, who also serves as the Chairman of the AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation, spoke to the Subcommittee about the many benefits that come from investment in transportation research. Ness, along with a few other state DOT chiefs, advocated for more federal investment, saying it would serve to multiply those positive results.

“For example, the state of Indiana spent $3.9 million on research projects in 2017 and they report that five of those research projects saved the state just under $190 million,” explained Ness. “What a great return on investment, saving 46 dollars for every dollar spent on research!”

He added that ITD used federal research dollars to help develop a new concrete mix called ‘High Early Strength Concrete’ for use in accelerated bridge construction. “That study proved the new mix can replace Ultra-High Performance Concrete, which costs $10,000 to $15,000 per cubic yard, and reduce the cost to $800 per cubic yard –a cost reduction of more than 90%.”

Ness was joined by Minnesota DOT Assistant Commissioner Tim Henkel in presenting to the subcommittee. Henkel also spoke about beefing up funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s Exploratory Advanced Research program.

“FHWA has a good program, but its funding level – just $6 million annually – is rather low,” he explained. “Universities ought to be the best sources for carrying out fundamental research, but matching requirements and program directives seeking near-term solutions appear to be resulting in a preponderance of applied research that is crowding out fundamental research.”

Director Ness concluded his testimony with one last push for funding:

“By coordinating, collaborating, pooling and leveraging time and money, and utilizing the combined knowledge and expertise of our diverse research community, we are making significant contributions and improvements to the advancement of our nation’s transportation system,” he explained.

Ness explained that investment in research, development and subsequent innovation is not only a wise use of taxpayer money, but also helps these states find ways to build or repair roads and bridges faster and more efficiently.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., the subcommittee’s chairwoman, introduced the topic by saying “Investing in research and development is critical to developing smart, resilient, and cost-effective transportation infrastructure for the future.”

Quotes are courtesy of AASHTO.

US-20 in Idaho officially renamed as a Medal of Honor Highway during ceremony and sign unveiling in Caldwell

Medal of Honor Sign

Idaho Governor Brad Little, Idaho legislators, representatives from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Idaho Transportation Department officially celebrated the renaming of US-20 in Idaho as a Medal of Honor Highway this morning (July 1) in Caldwell.

During the 2019 Idaho legislative session, a bill co-sponsored by Senator Abby Lee and Representative Scott Syme called for US-20 in Idaho to be renamed as a Medal of Honor Highway. After unanimous approval by the Idaho Senate and House, Governor Little signed that bill this spring.

“The official renaming of US-20 in Idaho recognizes past, present, and even future Medal of Honor recipients for their great bravery in service to our country,” Governor Little said. “The timing of today’s ceremony couldn’t be more poignant, just days away from Independence Day and the celebration of our freedom, which would not exist without the sacrifices of America’s Medal of Honor recipients and all veterans.”

A ceremony and sign unveiling was hosted in Caldwell at one of the 11 locations across US-20 in southern Idaho, where new Medal of Honor signs will be installed.

US-20 in Idaho runs from the Oregon state line to the Montana border. The length of the highway spans from Oregon to Massachusetts.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is working with each state that US-20 runs through with the goal of the entire length eventually being renamed a Medal of Honor Highway from coast to coast.

To earn the Medal of Honor, a member of the Armed Forces had to act with “with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of life during combat against an enemy of the United States.”

ITD’s new annual report video showcases department’s efforts to benefit citizens

Annual Report Innovation

BOISE – Utilizing another communication channel to expand outreach of the department’s accomplishments and mission, ITD added a video component to its usual hardcopy version of the annual report.

In less than eight minutes, the annual report video summarizes the highly successful 2018 fiscal year and how the department worked to meet the safety, mobility, and economic opportunity needs of Idaho citizens.

“Normally, we print the report on paper and also provide an electronic version on the ITD website,” explained ITD Director Brian Ness. “This year, we wanted to bring our success story to life in a way we never have before.”

Clicking this link will take you to the video result of that effort, highlighting ITD’s achievements in 2018. The traditional hardcopy document is also available here.

The Annual Report video is the story of innovation, excellence, and dedication, and shows the excellent results of Idaho’s transportation investments in 2018.