ICONIC Workforce Development Program Seeks Spring 2024 Applicants for Boise Course

Up to twenty Idahoans interested in pursuing a career operating construction equipment or performing any of the associated construction or road-building trades like cement masonry, truck driving, carpentry, or concrete finishing are invited to apply for free training in Boise during a five-week course (April 17-May 25). ITD’s workforce development program ICONIC (Idaho Career Opportunities – Next In Construction) gives graduates an opportunity to land a job in the fast-growing construction industry paying on average of $43,000-$52,000 per year.

Recipients will get to showcase their skills to potential employers at the end of the course. Since 2020, approximately 80% of the 85 graduates have found employment in the industry within six months of completing the program – many within days or weeks.

“Construction is one of the most in-demand job fields in Idaho,” said Workforce Development Program Manager Jessika Doglietto. “There is no better time than now to seek a career in construction.”

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, possess a valid driver’s license, and be able to pass a drug-screening test.

For more information and to apply, please visit the program’s website at iconic.idaho.gov


Michael Johnson named new ITD Division Administrator of Engineering Services

Michael Johnson has been appointed as the new Division Administrator of Engineering Services by Director Scott Stokes. Mike has been part of the ITD management team as an engineering manager for the bridge delivery program since 2018. As Division Administrator, Mike will serve as the ITD State Bridge Engineer leading ITD Bridge, Environmental, Right of Way, and Asset Management sections for Highways.

Mike joined ITD in 1992 after graduating with a degree in Engineering from Idaho State University, and received his Professional Engineer’s license in 1996. He starting his career at ITD as part of the EIT program, where he had rotations in construction, traffic, and materials before taking a position in Bridge. Mike has 32 years of engineering experience leading teams and programs with customer service and quality as his priorities.

From 2003 until the end of 2018, Mike branched out from ITD to lead a bridge project delivery section for a consulting firm working across multiple states.  He returned to ITD to get more opportunities and to have a better work/life balance. Since returning to ITD, Mike has served as the State Load Rating Engineer, Bridge Design Group Leader, and State Bridge Engineer.  Mike has worked closely with the District Engineers and Chief Engineer to solve difficult project delivery and streamline emergency response processes.  Mike has also led the way on new initiatives teaming with the EIT Council supporting employees statewide.

Mike has been fortunate to have designed or reviewed over 100 bridge replacements or rehabilitations. His favorite projects included designing US-20 over Henry’s Fork in Island Park, reviewing the design of the Cloverdale Road Bridge over I-84 emergency replacement, and designing the I-86W over UPRR Chubbuck Bridge (which he worked on with his son Zak, an engineer with ITD in Pocatello).

“With more than 30 years of experience, Mike Johnson is a guiding leader with expertise to support teams on complex delivery issues that will serve ITD employees and local partners well as Division Administrator,” said ITD Chief Deputy/Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney. “We appreciate his commitment to safety, innovation, quality, and helping make ITD a great place to work.” 

Innovation is an essential focus for Johnson, who stated, “I look forward to partnering with stakeholders as we maintain and improve our highways and bridges across Idaho.  We have exceptional, dedicated employees, contractors, and consultants, and it will be an honor to team with them to provide a safe and efficient transportation system for all Idahoans.”  

Mike and his wife, Kim, have two grown sons, Zak and Parker. In addition to working as an engineer, Mike served 12 years as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves and has coached high school football for the last 14 years. Mike’s hobbies include mountain biking, running, coaching, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his family. Mike was born in Colorado, and spent his childhood moving around the United States following in Dad’s military assignments.  Prior to settling in Meridian after college, Mike moved to a different state on average every year and a half.

ITD’s Tabitha Smith energizes teens and parents about safe driving

Two teen girls holding microphones.
The cover of the Backseat Drivers Manual.
Backseat Drivers Manual

Teen drivers are 2.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than any other age group. For the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) reaching teens is more important than ever. They are a hard group to connect with. Tabitha Smith (pictured below on podcast), OHS’s occupant protection and teen driver safety program manager has been making those connections and getting them excited about traffic safety.

Tabitha worked with, Sam Walker and Ella Cornett (pictured above, right to left), two students at One Stone who created the “Backseat Driver’s Manual.” It’s an activity book designed to teach kids about safe driving and spark conversations among families. The students recognized Tabitha for her mentorship and guidance at One Stone’s annual fundraising dinner.

During the dinner presentation, Cornett said, “Tabitha empowered us to step outside of our comfort zones. Her steadfast support and positive energy gave us the confidence we needed to positively impact our state.”

A woman at a banquet table.
Tabitha at the One Stone annual dinner.

Kuna School District is also getting energized about safe driving. Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson invited Tabitha to the “Together We Can” podcast to talk about teen driver safety. They talked about unsafe driving behaviors common to teens, advice for parents, Parent-Student Driving Contracts, Alive at 25, and more. You can listen to the podcast on YouTube.

Tabitha’s dedication to promoting safe driving among young drivers is truly admirable. Through her partnerships with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Alliance Highway Safety, and the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA), as well as her leadership in managing the Alive at 25 defensive driving program, she’s making a real impact.

If you know an Idaho teenager who could benefit from getting involved or learning more about these programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to Tabitha. You can contact her via email at tabitha.smith@itd.idaho.gov. It’s heartening to see individuals like Tabitha leading the charge for safer roads and empowered young drivers.



Two women with podcast microphones.
Kuna School District Podcast

Idaho students can display skills in Aviation Art Contest

Idaho students age 5-18 are encouraged to demonstrate their artistic skills under the theme “Careers in Aerospace” in the annual Aviation Art Contest through the Idaho Division of Aeronautics. The contest is open now through April 5, with winners announced May 3.

Age-group winners (categories listed below) received the following awards/recognition:

  • First place winners:
    • Invitation to ride in an airplane
    • Copy of their artwork signed by our Governor
    • Congratulatory letter
  • Second place winners:
    • Receive $25 in art supplies
    • Congratulatory letter

The rules are as follows:

  • Submit original artwork
  • Paper size must be 11” x 17” (Landscape orientation)
  • Must be two-dimensional watercolor, acrylic or oil, colored pencil, felt-tip marker, ballpoint
  • pen, pen and ink, and/or crayon
  • Must have a completed Certificate of Authenticity attached securely to the back of the piece of artwork (see link below for certificate)
  • No pencil, charcoal, collage, digital, or clip art

Artwork Categories by Age:
Age Group I: 5–6 years old
Age Group II: 7–9 years old
Age Group III: 10–12 years old
Age Group IV: 13–15 years old
Age Group V: 16–18 years old

Winners will also be featured in the 2025 Aviation Art Calendar

See the Entry Form under the “Safety & Education” tab on the Aeronautics webpage at the ITD website or this link.

Mitch Watkins joins Idaho Transportation Board as D4 Member

On Jan. 23, Governor Brad Little announced the appointment of Twin Falls businessman Mitch Watkins as the new District 4 representative to the Idaho Transportation Board, replacing Jim Kempton, who is retiring at month’s end after nearly 12 years. Watkins begins his service on Jan. 31, 2024.

Watkins will represent eight south-central Idaho counties. Watkins is the owner of Watkins Distributing Sales and Service, a full-service beverage distributor with facilities in Boise, Jerome, Idaho Falls, Lewiston, and Hayden, along with Miles City and Kalispell, Montana. He has served voluntarily in numerous state and local organizations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington.

“I’m excited to be serving on the Idaho Transportation Board at a pivotal time in our state’s history,” Watkins said. “We’re experiencing a period of rapid population and business growth, and we need the infrastructure to accommodate all of that increased pressure on our roads and highways. With Idaho’s challenging topography and severe weather, maintaining our roads and bridges is a never-ending task, but I’m looking forward to being part of the team that’s working to find the best solutions for the citizens of our state.”

“My business operates over 150 trucks, vans, and vehicles daily, so we know first-hand how a system of safe and well-maintained roads is necessary for our employees to get their jobs done safely and efficiently. Idaho’s economy will only grow as fast as the infrastructure develops to support it.”

Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Bill Moad also looks forward to Watkins’ service:

“I look forward to working with Mitch,” said Moad. “As a businessman who has dealt with transportation issues for decades in his distributing business, he has a lot to offer and will be an invaluable asset as we tackle the daily issues that face us as Idaho continues to grow.”

The seven-member Idaho Transportation Board meets once a month to oversee the operations of the Idaho Transportation Department. The Idaho Transportation Board establishes state transportation policy and guides the planning, development and management of a transportation network that is safe, efficient and enhances Idaho’s economy and quality of life.   

Brenda Williams recognized for chairing AASHTO’s HR Committee

ITD Chief Innovation Experience Officer and Human Resource Administrator Brenda Williams was recently recognized by AASHTO for completing her two-year term as the chair for the HR Committee. She previously served as the vice-chair for four years.  

The purpose of the national HR Committee is to research, recommend, and share best practices and policy initiatives to enable the human resource functions of state transportation agencies to continuously become stronger, innovative, and more efficient.

During her time on the committee, Williams said there were a few highlights, such as creating an HR metrics report to help guide nationwide policies, processes, and best practices. Additionally, they held at least two webinars annually and increased the number of states actively participating in the committee.  

“ITD is doing so many great things focused on the employees,” Williams said. “I was proud to share our best practices with other states.”  

Williams will continue to serve on the AASHTO Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.  

“It has been an honor to work with such amazing HR professionals around the country who are passionate about making the workplace better,” Williams added. 

Longest-serving member of Idaho Transportation Board Kempton to retire

BOISE – Jim Kempton, who has served the eight south-central Idaho counties as the District 4 representative on the Idaho Transportation Board since March 2012, is set to retire at the end of the month. At nearly 12 years of service, Kempton is the longest-serving board member. He succeeded Gary Blick as the District 4 representative.

A native of Albion, Kempton is a graduate of the University of Idaho. Kempton was a decorated Air Force fighter pilot who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. Kempton served five terms in the Idaho House of Representatives, including as the chairman of the House Transportation and Defense Committee.

Kempton also represented Idaho for seven years on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, was a former member of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission – including two years as its president — and served as assistant professor of physics at the Air Force Academy. He also was liaison between the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.

He chaired the Forum on Transportation Investment during his time on the board, and was a key member of former Governor Otter’s Task Force on Transportation Investment.

At Kempton’s appointment in February 2012, Governor Otter said, “You’re just not going to get any smarter, better informed or committed to public service than Jim Kempton.” During his 11 years on the transportation board, Kempton proved that to be true time after time.

“Jim’s commitment to Idaho and its citizens is unrivaled,” said Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Bill Moad. “It’s evident his time in the Idaho Legislature and with the Public Utilities Commission has been invaluable as he helped guide us on critical issues addressing growth and investment in transportation. I personally will miss the wit and wisdom that was apparent in the support he gave me and the other board members.”

Julie DeLorenzo, who started on the board just a month after Kempton, becomes the longest-tenured member when Kempton steps down.



ITD helps get life-sustaining heating fuel across restricted bridge

What do you do when a propane truck weighing twice as much as an old timber bridge is rated for needs to get across the bridge to deliver to a handful of people living on the other side who are completely dependent on that delivery to sustain warmth in winter? Recently, ITD was faced with that exact scenario on a bridge in North Idaho’s Boundary County with limited but important use for local access and recreation.

A consultant inspected the old timber bridge from 1960 and after finding significant rot, a weight restriction of 5 tons was placed on the crossing. However, residents living behind the bridge needed a propane truck delivery to supply their homes with heat. The loaded truck would far exceed the bridge’s weight restriction – it was twice as heavy as the posted limit!

So, ITD worked together with a bridge-design consultant to figure out how to get the truck across the bridge and back again without overloading the rotten timbers. ITD provided the county with specific directions on how to safely get the truck across the bridge. On Tuesday morning, December 12, the Boundary County Road & Bridge department was on hand at the bridge to assist the propane truck and act as spotters as it delivered propane under a special permit. 

Road & Bridge Road Foreman Bradley Barton and crew member Kris Lummus set the cones to mark the travelway, and after checking the actual propane capacity to verify it was 40% or less, directed the truck back across the bridge very slowly — less than the required 5 mph. The crossing went well, and they waited on site for the propane to make deliveries to three residences and then did the same procedure for the truck coming back across.

“This is a good example of ITD helping in a way that most people are unaware of,” said Bridge Asset Management Engineer Alan Buehrig, who spearheaded the department’s response. “This was a great example of ITD going the extra mile to provide customer service to the county and Idaho citizens.”



ITD aims to reduce plastics in erosion and sediment control

As the earth’s soils continue to get bombarded with plastics that saturate and pollute, impacting agricultural production and threatening both wildlife and human health, Departments of Transportation (DOTs) like Idaho’s are pivoting to environmentally friendly solutions that reduce plastics in our environment. The picture above shows a robin entangled in netting. The picture below and to the right shows a snake similarly entangled.

For instance, biodegradable erosion blankets (like the ones seen below) are being used in projects that do not harm or entangle wildlife. The natural fiber blankets have loose-weave without joints, allowing snakes and other wildlife to easily move over or through natural fibers. Erosion and Sediment Control (ESC) practices are used to prevent soil loss and reduce sediment-laden stormwater runoff. These practices used in construction, maintenance and operations can be temporary or permanent. Biodegradable material will decompose under ambient soil conditions into carbon dioxide, water, and other naturally occurring materials within a time period relevant to the product’s expected service life.

Snake entangled in plastic netting
Snake entangled in plastic netting

Older “photodegradable” plastics can still be intact a decade after construction if vegetation prevents sunlight from breaking down the plastic. When these photodegradable plastics do break down, they continue to be a hazard to natural ecosystems as a micro-plastic.  In contrast, biodegradable products typically degrade within 1 to 2 years into naturally occurring substances.

Plastics are commonly used for ESC due to their availability, durability, and cost, but they are rarely recycled, ending up in landfills or breaking down into micro-plastics, which are an emerging pollutant of concern. Pieces of plastic netting can contaminate waterways and interfere with aquatic resource. Plastic erosion control products can ensnare and kill fish and wildlife, interfere with highway mowing equipment, create garbage, and result in added costs for removal and disposal. Concerns about human health impacts are also major concern. Research has shown that plastics in soils can serve as vectors for chemicals and pathogens harmful to human health. They can also disrupt soil biology and crop establishment, which could negatively impact food security.

According to Stormwater magazine in May 2021, at least 21 DOTs have either phased out plastic ESC products or would like to, according to a national virtual peer exchange held in November 2020 on reducing plastics. As such, many DOTs have or are working toward innovative practices involving reducing plastic-based products used in ESC and other toxins from erosion control products. DOTs use various ESC products such as rolled erosion control (erosion blankets), fiber wattles and rolls, and hydraulically applied erosion control products. Factors such as availability, cost, performance, and sustainability are considered.

Biodegradable erosion blankets
Biodegradable erosion blankets

Minnesota DOT estimates that over 30 tons of plastic annually are placed on their roadsides from erosion and sediment control products alone. These plastics come from woven plastic netting or fabrics commonly deployed as part of transportation projects on open ground and near water to protect soils from erosion and retain sediment. in 2017, Washington State’s DOT began requiring “natural plant fiber unaltered by synthetic material” in its erosion and sediment control best management practices

“As more DOTs require the use of natural, biodegradable products, the upfront costs of purchasing the product are expected to decrease based on efficiency of scale,” Cathy Ford explained. Ford is ITD’s Roadside Program Administrator.

Jason Brinkman selected as new ITD Division Administrator District 3 Engineer

Jason Brinkman has been named the new District 3 Engineer by Director Stokes, rising to the top from among a strong group of candidates for the position. Brinkman has been part of the district management team as the Engineering Manager for Design & Construction since 2016. Previously he also served in statewide roles for the GARVEE bond program and Highways project delivery.  Brinkman replaces former District Engineer Caleb Lakey, who left ITD for the private sector in October.

Brinkman started with ITD in 2000 and spent his first few years in the department’s Engineer-in-Training program.  He also has prior experience working for residential construction and utility companies, and his father’s land surveying firm.  Brinkman has been a leader in project management, design, construction, maintenance and traffic operations, legal coordination, contract negotiations, large-scale program management, environmental, bridge delivery, and right of way solutions.  His over two decades with ITD have led to comprehensive understanding of agency governance, local partnerships, policies, district operations, customer service, and ITD strategic goals.

“With more than 25 years of experience, Jason Brinkman brings both field engineering and district management teamwork expertise on complex issues that will serve ITD employees and local partners well as District 3 Engineer,” said ITD Chief Deputy/Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney. “We appreciate his leadership and commitment to safety, innovation, and helping make ITD a great place to work.”

Brinkman, a native of Watertown, South Dakota, earned his Civil Engineering degree from North Dakota State University in 1999 and his Idaho Professional Engineer license in 2004. Jason lives in Boise with his wife Jill, also a professional engineer, and their two children.  When not practicing engineering, they enjoy rafting, hiking, biking, baseball/softball, and other outdoor pursuits.

Transportation excellence is a goal for Brinkman, who said of his new role, “I look forward to continuing to work with our many great partners and stakeholders as we maintain and improve our highways and bridges for all Idahoans.  We have exceptional District 3 employees, contractors, and consultants that it will be an honor to team with as district engineer to provide the safe and efficient transportation system we all rely on daily.”