1 in 300,000 — ITD beats odds to benefit citizen access

BOISE – ITD’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) group recently earned the Special Achievement in GIS, or SAG Award, on July 11 at the annual Esri User Conference in San Diego. Esri is the global market leader in GIS software, and selected ITD from more than 300,000 eligible organizations worldwide to receive the award for innovative application of mapping, data analytics, and thought leadership in the field of transportation.

This work benefits the department, but also is a step toward greater access to road data for the public.

This roadway location intelligence will be available to local government entities and highway districts to provide accurate disbursement of federal highway dollars,” ITD Senior Service Delivery Manager Jeff Carpenter explained. “This data will be available to the public for use in urban planning, environmental impact analysis, disaster management, natural resource management and health-care planning. GIS location intelligence can help in many aspects of community development and planning.”

And here is the interesting part about this award:

ITD did not apply for it. The agency was selected, unsolicited.

Esri looked at the work ITD is doing, then sent it to a group of peers for review, and they nominated the department for the award. Linear Referencing expert Amit Hazra said that ITD has the best road-network data that he has worked with in doing roads and highways implementation projects.

The award selection was cemented by the high quality of ITD’s road network, specifically the road data for each ITD district.

ITD’s system provides quicker access to data, which can then be used to make data-driven decisions about planning, project funding, or asset management.

There were 134 countries represented in San Diego, and 21,000 people on hand.

“There was a single example of excellence used in the transportation category, and it was Idaho,” Carpenter said.

Back Row: Sydney Lewis, Brian Ness, Will Thoman, Jeff Carpenter
Front Row: David Fulton, Nicole Hanson, Wendy Bates, Tyler Jackson
Not Pictured: Michael Miller, Brian Smith



ITD districts collaborate on bridge projects to save taxpayers nearly $5 million


RIGBY – A unique Idaho Transportation Department collaboration within Districts 4, 5 and 6 — the south-central, southeastern and eastern idaho regions of the state — allowed those groups to come together and identify 17 bridges in dire need of replacement.

The team created one project that combined all 17, saving more than $3 million in construction, plus an estimated $100,000 per bridge ($1.7 million) during the design phase — a grand total of $4.7 million.

“When estimated, ITD had budgeted $27 million for this unique project,” said District 6’s Josh Sprague, who identified the savings as the former D6 Innovation Steward. “Once our budget was set, the bid opened at just $24 million.”

This allowed ITD to save money while increasing mobility and economic opportunity.

“The incredible savings are associated with grouping projects across district lines and working together,” said Sprague.

They also were successful in finishing the data collection and concept designs necessary for these 17 bridges at a fraction of the cost of doing each individually.

“Combining the 17 projects into one saves a significant amount of money for taxpayers, but the biggest benefit is time,” said D6 District Engineer Jason Minzghor. “This accelerates the whole process, so we can make needed repairs more quickly for the users of the highway system.”

Each of the bridges had reached their 50-year life span, so they all were in need of replacement. Each bridge will be brought up to current design standards; being wider to accommodate wider shoulders or future widenings, and in most cases longer, to better accommodate ever-changing waterways. As a result of the future shoulder widenings, ITD also will be minimizing the amount of guardrail needed.

By constructing 17 bridges under one contract, long-term impacts to the traveling public are minimized by:

– Grouping together similar bridges in similar areas
– Using concrete barrier for the safety of drivers and construction personnel
– Traffic drives on a paved surface at all times
– One lane is required to be open at all times

#catchKenny and his crew inspecting bridges across the state

With more than 4,200 bridges to inspect around the state, various crews with the Idaho Transportation Department are responsible for the safety of several structures, but this year, they will have another teammate to rely on: Kenny.

Who is Kenny?

Kenny is the department’s newest under-bridge inspection truck, or UBIT. This Kenworth A-62 truck has an arm with a bucket that can extend 62 feet under, around and in the substructure of bridges. Equipment with greater reach, like Kenny, allows inspectors to examine every inch of a bridge’s underside for signs of stress, and recommend maintenance work based on what their inspection finds.

Since the department put him into service this January, Kenny has been hard at work. He and his team are expected to complete more than 100 bridge inspections this year alone, and as such, Kenny will be making tracks around the state.

To showcase employees’ efforts as they work tirelessly with the state’s most vulnerable infrastructure, ITD encourages social-media followers to #catchKenny out on the road.

If you come across an inspection, you can participate in the fun by pulling to the side, coming to a stop and safely snapping a photo and uploading it to social media using the hashtag to let ITD know.

Whether or not you #catchKenny this summer, cross those rivers, lakes and train tracks with peace of mind, knowing that your transportation department is constantly working to keep you moving safely on the road.

Idaho receives notice of $90 million federal grant for I-84 work

An area of major need in Idaho may get a vital shot of federal money, as federal officials shortlisted $90.24 million in grant funds to help ease congestion on Interstate 84 in the Treasure Valley between the Karcher Interchange and Franklin Boulevard. The Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant will also allow improvements benefiting the movement of good and services on the heavily used route.

The improvements include widening I-84 to three lanes in each direction in this 2.8-mile section, adding auxiliary lanes, replacing and widening an overpass and an under-sized canal structure, replacing and expanding two bridges over a railroad and canal, performing ramp improvements, reconstructing an interchange, and rebuilding a bridge over the freeway.

This area sees nearly 100,000 vehicle trips per day, and commercial trucks comprise a significant percentage of that traffic.

The project is innovative because of its use of diverse local and state matching funds. Idaho’s application was a joint effort between ITD and COMPASS (the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho). COMPASS was instrumental in spearheading the funding application, arranging for needed funds from the city of Caldwell and Canyon County.

The Idaho Transportation Board also was innovative in its use of state money as a matching funding source. The grant offsets 60% of the project’s total estimated cost of $150 million.

By law, the U.S. Congress (the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works) has 60 days to review before award can be made.

“Idaho is the fastest-growing state in the country, and receiving this grant shows the importance of the Interstate 84 corridor for moving freight, along with our own goods and services, across the west and the world,” said ITD Director Brian Ness. “More importantly, the project is expected to Improve safety by significantly reducing crashes in the area.”

The President’s Administration, ITD Director Ness, COMPASS, Idaho Senator Crapo’s Office and other members of Idaho’s congressional delegation all helped move the grant application forward.

“We appreciate this additional funding and the benefits it will bring for commerce, commuters and the traveling public. It will relieve congestion through Canyon County and the entire Treasure Valley,” he added.

Get to know your Idaho with ITD’s free historical photo archive

BOISE – The history of Idaho is very much intertwined with the history of our highways and roads. Early pioneers built the Gem State by carving highways and byways into our diverse landscape. From rolling hills, fertile plains, and lush meadows, to stark desert and rugged mountains, highways connect them all.

You now have the opportunity to uncover that early highway history – Idaho’s heritage — 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. Here’s a short video to walk you through the process.

May is Historic Preservation Month, so what better time to unveil this new service? Travel back in time and get to know your Idaho!

ITD Director Brian Ness named to Transportation Research Board Executive Committee

Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness was recently named to the Executive Committee of the 2018 Transportation Research Board (TRB). The TRB is a unit of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, and serves as an independent adviser to the President of the United States, the Congress, and federal and state agencies on scientific and technical transportation issues of national importance.

Ness, who has been ITD Director since 2010, serves as the chair of the Research & Innovation Committee for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and chaired AASHTO’s Special Committee on Transportation Security and Emergency Management (SCOTSEM) until August 2017. Through his leadership of SCOTSEM, Mr. Ness achieved national recognition for applying his organizational model to emergency management and security, which has helped reshape the group’s strategic plan.

Ness was President of the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO) in 2016. In this position, he served as a regional representative to AASHTO’s Executive Committee. In addition, he sponsors the WASHTO Highway Transport Committee. He is also the creator and sponsor of WASHTO’s Emerging Leaders Program, which he also brought to ITD.

Ness is a nationally recognized authority on organizational realignment and speaks regularly at national conferences for both the public and private sectors about how to structure a more effective and accountable state government. He leads a seminar each year on his “Nine Steps to a Results-Focused Culture” for the National Transportation Leadership Institute’s (NTLI) senior and executive-level management courses.

Ness was honored in 2012 as Leader of the Year by the Treasure Valley chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar, and named Trine University’s (formerly Tri-State University) 2014 Alumni of the Year.  He received the 2016 Navigator Award from Route Fifty. The award, in the “Agency and Department Chiefs” category, is based on his citizen-focused approach to government and transformative style. In 2013, ITD earned AASHTO’s President’s Award for Administration for its realignment efforts.

Since Ness joined the department, ITD has received nearly 100 national awards for its people, programs and projects, including the prestigious Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation.

Under his leadership, ITD began an employee-driven innovation program in 2014. Since that time, the department has implemented more than 860 innovations, saved nearly $5.2 million, created 500 customer-service improvements, and saved about 187,000 contractor and employee hours.

The department was recognized in 2016 by the Idaho Technology Council as a finalist for Innovative Company of the Year.

Ness earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Tri-State University and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Western Michigan University. He is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan and Idaho. Before becoming director at ITD, he worked for 30 years at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), holding a variety of positions in research, operations, aeronautics, construction, and project development.



ITD, other community partners in saving lives honored at Donate Life event

Idaho has consistently been one of the top states in the nation when it comes to saying yes to saving lives. These achievements are due in large part to hard work and collaboration. An event celebrating these partnerships and commemorating these successes was held Thursday (April 12) at the Idaho Transportation Department’s Boise office.

Watch a short video of the event

At the event Thursday, the “Yes Idaho” Donate Life Coalition honored local community partners who have been an integral part of saving lives through organ donation. ITD has been crucial in the success of donation in Idaho during the last 20 years through organ donation notifications on drivers licenses.

Many of those partners spoke or were recognized at the event, where the group also unveiled the 2018 Threads of Life Quilt. The quilt was created with individual squares made by people with a personal connection to donation. Many squares honored a loved one who made the decision to donate or to celebrate the life of a transplant recipient.

Community partners recognized included:

The Idaho Transportation Department – Thanks to ITD’s help, the registry grew by 5.2% in 2017, to 64% of the population vs. 2016 census estimate. The national average is 54%. Idaho has 800,000 drivers who chose organ donation on their Idaho licenses.

Senator Lee Heider – Senator Heider has been at advocate for donation for several years. This year, he sponsored two bills related to this topic that became law.
S1249: This legislation instructs institutions of higher education to send a link to the Yes Idaho Donor Registry to their students twice each year.
S1250: Provides for a reminder email to be sent to state employees reminding them that the state of Idaho provides 30 days paid leave for any state employee donating a kidney.

Lillie Kaster — A donor mother who honored the memory of her son by educating the public about the importance of donation. She has reached out to rodeo royalty and recruited ambassadors for donation. They carry a “Yes Idaho” flag in parades while on horseback and speak at public events, sharing the message of donation.

KTVB Channel 7 – The media partner ran a series of stories last spring and four more last fall profiling people and their families touched by organ donation.

There are almost 300 people in Idaho currently waiting for a life-saving transplant. We are very grateful to our community partners for their dedication to saving the lives of those who are waiting. For more information about organ, eye and tissue donation, please log on to the “Yes Idaho” website.

Monet flutters record 662 miles from Idaho to California

A monarch butterfly named Monet, reared by Melinda Lowe of ITD’s Environmental Section, recently made history by completing a flight from Lowe’s Treasure Valley home to a swimming pool in California.

The monarch (Danaus plexippus) set out from Boise on Sept. 4, 2017, and was rescued from the pool March 2, 2018.

Biologists studying the movements of the declining species tracked the monarch by the research tag placed on her wing (see photo below). It is the first documented case of a monarch, tagged as part of Washington State University’s program, to make the journey from Idaho to California.

The monarch was reared in Idaho by Lowe, who brought her home in early August 2017. Lowe had a butterfly cage specially built for her, where Monet grew fat and happy. eating freshly picked showy milkweed leaves (see photo at right).

After a month, Monet emerged from her chrysalis and became a California-bound butterfly that Lowe released that evening, just four hours later.

“She immediately flew up and out of the yard and toward the west. “I flapped my hand waving goodbye. Such a bittersweet moment,” Lowe said.

The butterfly, officially named B1861, flew approximately 662 miles southwest and into southern California before settling in the greater Santa Barbara area.

“This is big news. Monet is the first Idaho monarch in my study to be recovered in California, and at six months of age, she is the longest-lived monarch documented in this Washington State University tagging effort,” said Dr. David James, an associate professor at WSU specializing in invertebrate conservation. “Monet will go down in Idaho monarch history, that’s for sure.”

The California homeowner found the butterfly a few hundred yards from a known overwintering site where the female butterfly likely spent the winter. After fishing her from the pool, the homeowner released the butterfly, which apparently was fine after the near-death experience. The homeowner then contacted Dr. James, who in turn contacted Lowe.

“Hopefully, she is now heading inland from Goleta, California, with dry wings seeking milkweed to lay her eggs,” said Dr. James.

The monarch butterfly is a national priority species for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Community-based projects in Idaho’s Treasure Valley and throughout the country are helping to enhance and restore habitat to benefit the monarch. This beautiful orange and black species is known for migration between its over-wintering grounds in central Mexico and California, to its spring and summer breeding grounds in the northern and interior portions of the United States and Canada. This butterfly requires milkweed plants to reproduce, and female monarchs will only lay eggs on milkweeds. Native milkweeds are the primary food sources for monarch caterpillars.

Monarch butterflies and other pollinators are in trouble. The decline of these species may be attributed to habitat fragmentation, urban and agricultural development, pesticide use and lack of nectar plants for food. In the case of the migratory monarch, the lack of native milkweed is believed to be a critical limiting factor.

Learn more about our efforts to save the monarch at https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/

ITD’s Buehrig building Bridges to Prosperity  

Opportunities like the one in front of ITD’s Alan Buehrig are few and far between.

Buehrig, an ITD Bridge Engineer for the last two years, is leaving March 16 to travel to Panama for two weeks to participate in the Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) program.

Alan (pictured above at left) will be the Safety Officer on the project. A group of about 10 people from other departments of transportation, and representing private-engineering firms, contractors, and fabricators, also are going.

Buehrig’s group will construct a steel suspension bridge — the 100-foot span will connect a portion of the community to the outside roadway. The bridge will provide safe pedestrian access across the Rio Tuancle (from one side of the community to the other) year-round, especially important during the rainy season when the river swells dramatically.
Building the bridges over impassable rivers in isolated communities creates access for residents to school, markets, health clinics, and greater economic opportunity.

B2P’s founder, Ken Frantz, started the nonprofit organization in 2001 after seeing a photo in National Geographic of folks in war-torn Ethiopia struggling to get access to needed services by crossing the Blue Nile River.

See link for history of B2P: https://www.bridgestoprosperity.org/who-we-are

“This is a unique opportunity to contribute to B2P’s extraordinary mission,” Buehrig said.  “I chose to become a civil engineer out of a desire to build meaningful infrastructure that directly improves people’s lives, and this definitely fits those goals.

“I also hope to broaden my knowledge of other cultures and to become a better engineer through working side by side with others across the bridge industry.”

The bridge is being built in El Macho, a small spread-out village of some 300 people located about 320 kilometers west of Panama City.

B2P is already on site, working with the local community to build the foundations. A few community volunteers are already working on it. It is B2P’s goal is to complete these projects in collaboration with the local communities.

In 2017, the NSBA (National Steel Bridge Alliance) gave a presentation to the ITD Bridge section about the program, and encouraged interested volunteers to reach out to NSBA.

Buehrig was intrigued.


Buehrig’s Bridges to Prosperity trip delayed

On the eve of his trip to Panama with the Bridges to Prosperity program, Buehrig had his plan scuttled due to unforeseen emergent circumstances.

Paving awards are big win for north Idaho projects and drivers

COEUR D’ALENE – Three north Idaho projects received recognition from the National Asphalt and Paving Association just before Christmas for high-quality paving, signifying a big win for the Idaho Transportation Department, the contractor (Poe Asphalt Paving Inc.), and most importantly, the region’s drivers.

Paving for the second stage of US-95 near Sheep Creek, US-95 near Cougar Creek, and (pictured above) Sherman Avenue to Blue Creek Bay Bridge on Interstate 90 earned Quality in Construction awards.

“Our project managers and materials engineers work with contractors to ensure that the public receives a high-quality product,” said Marvin Fenn, an ITD engineering manager in north Idaho.

Awards were based on asphalt samples submitted to the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Alabama and reviewed for deviations and for consistency.

“Collaborating with ITD engineers is always a positive experience,” said Brian Poe, a project manager for Poe Asphalt and Paving in Post Falls. “It is great to work with a team that wants to deliver the best projects for the traveling public.”