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.

Extreme winter weather closes roads, stretches resources

A series of winter storms pounded Idaho this week, bringing heavy snowfall to the region and causing multiple road closures. The extreme weather forced ITD to rally personnel and equipment to meet the challenge. The department shifted equipment and staffing resources as best as possible around the state. It has been all-hands-on deck for much of the last two weeks as crews continue working hard to plow and clear roads as quickly and safely as possible.

From new snow to low visibility, drifting, and several avalanches or threats of slides, the department was hit hard in several areas. The worst winter weather seemed to reside in eastern Idaho, while avalanche conditions in District 3 and District 4 made several popular routes impassable.

“ITD’s primary mission is maintaining the safety and mobility of Idaho’s transportation system,” said ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes. “We only close roads when the traveling public and our ITD crews are in jeopardy. If a road is closed, that means it is completely impassable and unsafe for travel.”

For current road conditions and updates, please check the department’s traveler advisory site,

The department also has a winter readiness website. Please visit Idaho Ready.

ITD expands outreach with first-ever podcast

Utilizing a new and more modern communication tool to expand outreach to the driving public prior to major commute impacts on Interstate 84, ITD’s GARVEE and Communication offices recently collaborated to launch an ITD podcast. The intent of this innovation is to reach a different audience than television, radio, or other media.

The initial focus of the podcast is on widening I-84 in Canyon County. Future podcasts will address significant milestones and upcoming traffic switches as the work in the Nampa-to-Caldwell corridor kicks into high gear later this summer and for the next few construction seasons. 

The I-84 Corridor team brainstormed the podcast idea back in 2018 and began to work on the first few podcasts late last year. Communication Manager Vince Trimboli emcees the podcast and brings on various guest experts to discuss specific topics.

You can listen to the first podcast here:

“The podcast is an outreach tool that the department hadn’t yet put into practice, and we thought that with the many commuters on the I-84 corridor, perhaps we could give people another way to keep in touch with what we’re planning and doing in the corridor,” said GARVEE Manager Amy Schroeder, Trimboli’s first guest on the podcast.

The podcast name “Drive Idaho” was chosen because it represents what the department does every day, and can be used statewide.

D4’s Brumfield uses Wishes for Warriors program

With so much time spent within the walls of our respective trucks, sheds, cubicles and offices, it’s easy to forget that each and every ITD employee lives a life outside of the department. Some may appear to be more colorful than others, more peppered with joy or riddled with strife, but each one has a story to tell should he or she be willing to share.

Let’s take a look this week at Brent Brumfield, a GIS Analyst who joined District 4 of ITD just over a year ago, in December of 2017. Brumfield spends a lot of his time outside of work giving back to those who have given so much to this country.

Originally from Calistoga, California, Brent moved to south-central Idaho via Billings, Montana, where he majored in Environmental Management and Policy at Rocky Mountain College. During his last semester of college, he accepted an offer from AECOM to handle oil and gas remediation, thus kick-starting his professional career.

But his story begins long before Brent accepted his first GIS job offer. In fact, it begins before he even went to college. As a young man of 20 years, he made the decision to join the United States Marine Corps. This story starts there.

“I was really looking for something to change my course in life and I thought that the Marine Corps might be good way to do that,” Brent explained. “I was very close with my grandfather growing up, and he had served as a Marine during WWII. The time he spent serving his country instilled a great amount of pride in my grandfather, and that remained a defining part of his character for the entirety of his life.”

Although Brent knew he was ready for a change in life, he admits he “had no idea what I was getting into.”

“I went from working as a store clerk and in construction jobs, to driving a 26-ton ‘water tank’ carrying 21 Marines (fully loaded) from ship to shore to established beachheads.”

Brent served eight years in the Marines as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle Crewman. He deployed to Iraq once in 2006 and again in 2007 (as part of the 22nd MEU), got married, and even had a son while serving his country. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and also at Camp Pendleton in California.

After his tenure in the Marine Corps, Brent moved his family to Montana in order to pursue his education. His time in the service was never far from his mind, however, and Brent soon discovered there were other ways he could continue to serve his fellow veterans.

“I got involved with Wishes for Warriors when a friend of mine reached out and asked if I would help organize a waterfowl hunt,” said Brumfield. “I had actually participated in one with Wounded Warrior Battalion back when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, and that experience had a profound and lasting impression on me.”

Brent believes that giving back to others who have been less fortunate during their time of service is crucial in the road to healing.

“During the time of my grandfather, everyone served in the military, so there were people these men and women could talk to and relate with upon their return from war. That changed after Vietnam,” Brent stated “when suddenly service members returned from duty and felt as though they had to keep their military service and experiences bottled up inside.”

“That’s a big part of why I do what I do. Often times it’s less about hunting and more about being that person willing to lend an ear to someone who simply needs to talk about what they went through then, and what they are going through now.”

Brent, along with Wishes for Warriors, feels that outdoor activities are a great way for veterans to bond – particularly when they happen to be facing some struggles either on an internal or external level.

“It’s always great to see these guys who are down, and within the first day of hunting, there’s a personality shift and their overall outlook is like night and day. Suddenly, they are talking and smiling, and you can see that both a physical and mental change has occurred.”

So what’s on the radar next for Brent? Well, he’s currently working with Wishes for Warriors to organize a fishing trip for salmon and steelhead. “We’re hoping to get out on the water sometime in the next few months,” Brent said. “Hopefully the fish will be biting that day.”

If you would like more information on the Wishes for Warriors organization, or to see how to participate, visit

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

Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17, recognizes critical safety role

BOISE – First responders, who play a critical safety role every day in managing traffic incidents in Idaho, are being recognized throughout the state Nov. 11-17 during Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, as officially proclaimed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

These responders help fight rising costs by helping to clear roadways faster and protect drivers.

“These men and women are truly our unsung heroes on the highway,” said Gov. Otter. “They keep commerce in our state moving and ensure we get to work and back home on time. They work all hours of the day and night, and even on holidays, to keep our families and loved ones safe.

“This week, and every week, I encourage motorists to help keep them safe, by slowing down and moving over when you see them doing their jobs.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and often require police, fire, emergency medical services, tow companies, and transportation workers. In an emergency, those first responders are critical to the protection of life and reduction of secondary crashes.

They also play a critical economic role.

While the cost of traffic incidents has increased by 85% in the last four years according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), responders help to reduce those staggering costs — $6 million average societal cost for a fatal crash, and $126,000 on average for an injury crash.

Those costs include lost earnings, medical bills, emergency services, property damage, and travel delays, among others.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho have contributed substantially to the prompt treatment of patients, clearance of roadways, and increased mobility of travelers. Rubbernecking or blocked lanes from crashes account for up to a quarter of all congestion.

Travelers can in turn protect responders by driving engaged and moving over when incident responders are present. Tragically, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers.

“They ensure our safety; we can do our part to ensure theirs,” said ITD Emergency Program Manager Neal Murphy.

Top ITD innovations of 2018 focused on safety, savings, and service

Innovate ITD!, in its fifth year, has so far saved Idaho taxpayers more than $8.5 million in efficiencies that are applied directly back into maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges. Along the way, more than 550 of the innovations have improved customer service, and hundreds more have enhanced mobility or directly impacted safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

ITD’s innovation effort is statewide, employee-driven, and is focused on finding safer, easier and less expensive solutions. It has become a model nationally for organizations looking to get better.

The 2018 Best of the Best competition spotlights innovations in each of seven categories central to the department’s main goals: safety, mobility, economic opportunity, customer service, employee development, time savings and cost savings.

“It is exciting to celebrate employee efforts to make things safer and better,” said ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “Recognizing and celebrating the spirit of innovation that exists in every ITD employee is what Innovate ITD! is all about.”

“The Best of the Best Winners were selected by employees as outstanding representations of innovations and innovators from throughout ITD.”

Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:

• Received 1,428 ideas from employees
• Implemented 951 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of $8.5 million*
• Realized 188,322 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created 551 customer-service improvements

* The savings in time and money are being used to maintain roads and bridges and provide better customer service.

Here are the seven category winners in ITD’s Best of the Best 2018:

In Safety, a hand injury sustained by a worker in another region by reaching into a tailgate to wrestle a rock loose inspired a crew in District 2 to solve a common problem. Bud Converse, Moscow Foreman, went to his crew with a possible solution. Within a few hours they’d welded a pipe to the truck, painted it and placed a bar in the pipe. The aptly named “Bud Bar” is within easy reach of the back of the truck. It is used like a crowbar to wedge open an obstructed tailgate without endangering anyone.

In Mobility, the state’s first double Flashing Yellow Arrow traffic signal helps move traffic through one of the busiest intersections in Coeur d’Alene. The new double FYA signal allows two lanes of traffic to turn left after yielding to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. The signal more quickly gets passenger vehicles on their way and commercial haulers to market with goods and services.

When bridges are hit by an over-height vehicle, a road can be closed for months, costing taxpayers millions. In the Economic Opportunity category, an innovation was developed to combat this. The minimum bridge heights are measured by bridge inspectors and this information is communicated to the permitting department in an easy-to-follow Google map. They can see which bridges trucks can safely pass under, increasing safety, and saving time by reducing bridge closures.

In the Customer Service category, improvements to the 511 Traveler Services platform will allow drivers to track weather conditions on certain highway routes. ITD partnered with the National Weather Service in Pocatello to add a forecast feature. The platform takes specific forecast information from areas along a section of highway, and creates an overall forecast for that route. This gets useful information to the traveling public, at their fingertips.

The Time Savings winner is an innovative new plow-blade changing cart. In a bad winter, blades have to swapped out up to five times per month. This idea will minimize the old back-breaking method of changing and installing blades by hand. The cart serves as the holder during these operations. They go on easier, and more safely allows crews to get plow trucks on the road more quickly.

In Cost Savings, teamwork saved millions of dollars. District 6, 5 and 4 combined 17 bridge repairs under one contract. This allowed ITD to shave nearly 20 years off the timeline for replacing these bridges, saved about $1.7 million in design costs, and another $3 million off construction. The 6-5-4 project won the 2018 AASHTO President’s Award for Planning. Each of the bridges is over 50 years old, and all will be brought up to current design standards and will be wider & longer.

In the Employee Development category,, new employee onboarding focuses on retaining good employees. Approximately 25% of ITD’s employees started with the department in the last two years. Employee orientation generally takes place on Day One and often includes only routine paperwork. Onboarding, though, is an experience that lasts through the employee’s first 6-18 months.

For new employees, introducing them to the “ITD way” early in the process and allowing them to take ownership of their job is another step in ITD’s mission of being the best transportation department in the country.

And there you have it – this year’s Best of the Best, combining safety, ingenuity and efficiency!

Watch the 2018 Best of the Best video.

ITD wins Environment and Planning honors from nation’s highway organization

BOISE – A bridge-replacement project near Sun Valley and the consolidation of 17 bridge projects in a single contract to reduce time and save millions in taxpayer funds won President’s Transportation Awards from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on Sunday, Sept. 23.

The awards, considered the highest honors for state departments of transportation, were handed out to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) at AASHTO’s annual conference, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The key to ITD achieving our vision to become the best transportation department in the country is building strong partnerships within our organization and in the communities across Idaho,” said Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness. “Both of these awards are the result of developing vital collaborations and using innovative ways to better serve our citizens and the traveling public.”

ITD won the Environment award for the Big Wood River Bridge project that replaced the bridge south of Hailey last fall. The design team consulted the Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game regarding wildlife mortality, and added wildlife passage tunnels on both ends of the bridge to reduce vehicle-animal crashes from migrating animals crossing the bridge.

The passageways were designed and built 33-feet wide to maximize the attractiveness of the tunnel to animals — if it was too narrow, it likely would not be used because the animals needed more room for escape in case a predator appeared. It was also built 13-feet tall to accommodate large animals such as elk.

Additional lanes improved traffic flow around slower recreational vehicles that are heading through the resort towns to the mountainous recreation areas, and addressed the regular occurrence of bottlenecking which plagued the former bridge. It also allowed for better traffic flow of large trucks traveling the highway carrying resources, materials, and supplies on a daily basis to support the resort and recreational activities.

ITD also won a President’s Award in the Planning category for replacing 17 bridges under one contract, saving $1.7 million and about 17 years. The single contract enabled the collection of engineering data on all the bridges at once rather than separately. Jointly collecting the data on bridge alignment, subsurface stability, right-of-way footprint, and hydraulic property saved about $100,000 per bridge compared to a bridge-by-bridge method.

The 17 bridges are located in ITD districts 4, 5, and 6 — in eastern, south-central, and southeast Idaho. The three districts worked together to accomplish common objectives.

Even more savings occurred once construction began on these bridges, as the project bid came in about $3 million under estimates.

ITD has won 13 AASHTO President’s Awards in the nine years Ness has been at the helm of the organization.