Idaho Transportation Department kicks off Work Zone Awareness Week: April 26-30

road construction workers

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is joining states across the country to promote National Work Zone Awareness Week April 26-30, 2021. The national and state campaigns are designed to raise awareness and educate the public about the safety measures we can all take in work zones, and how we are all responsible for work zone safety

In 2020 Idaho saw 753 crashes in work zones resulting in five deathsstressing the need for this year’s campaign: Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. 

“Because work zones are congested and busy it’s so important that drivers stay alert and avoid distractions,” said Idaho State Police Trooper Tauna Davis. “In a work zone, the margin for error shrinks. With workers alongside the roadway, consequences of distracted driving can be especially serious, and none of us want that.”

For over 20 years, National Work Zone Awareness Week has been held in April at the traditional start of construction season when highway projects increase. This year, ITD is using its Facebook and Instagram accounts in lieu of public events to remind everyone that construction workers are our neighbors, family members, and friends.  

“Watching for signs and following the direction they give us is what keeps all of us safe in work zones,” said Idaho State Police Corporal Scott Bolen. “The people in the work zones, from flaggers to engineers and equipment operators, are working to make the road safer and they count on all of us to keep them safe by slowing down and following the direction of signs and barriers. If we just stay focused and patient through a work zone, we’ll all be safely on our way.” 

Since 1960, 40 workers have lost their lives on the job in Idaho. Every one of the fallen workers left behind family, friends, and co-workers who miss them to this day. 

Though workers are often victims of work zone crashes, the dangers of reckless and distracted driving more often affect those behind the wheel. According to the Federal Highway Administration, four out of five work zone fatalities were drivers or passengers. Generally, crashes occur when drivers speed through a work zone or do not pay attention to the changing road conditions and drive off the road, or run into other vehicles, highway equipment, or safety barriers. 

How can you help?

Work zone crashes are preventable. The top three causes of crashes are following too closely, speeding, and distracted driving. 

When approaching a work zone please remember to: 

Slow Down – drive the posted speed limits 

Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic 

Plan Ahead  Check 511.idaho.gov before you go to plan your route. Expect delays, leave early or take an alternate route if possible

“Every highway worker out there is someone’s parent, child, spouse, sibling, or friend,” reiterated ITD’s Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney. “Their job is to maintain and enhance our traveling experience while keeping everyone safe while doing so. As drivers we all should be work zone safe because they deserve to return home each day to their loved ones.” 

Rock Creek bridge work benefiting wildlife and economy wins ACEC Engineering Award

The replacement of the US-20 culvert at Rock Creek with a bridge and the resulting environmental and economic improvements recently won second place in the Engineering Excellence awards in the American Civil Engineers Council (ACEC) of Idaho annual awards, Water Resources Category in partnership with design firm Jacobs Engineering.

The project finished in December 2020. ITD was notified of the award on Jan. 14, 2021.

The bridge was recently constructed on US-20 in south-central Idaho where only a culvert previously existed. The multi-plate culvert at Rock Creek had reached the end of its useful life and was showing signs of compromise in the flowline. The decision to construct a new bridge to replace the culvert over Rock Creek also addressed other needs. First and foremost, the new bridge remedied the failing multi-plate culverts. The bridge also aided in safety by removing the steep roadway slope section, which had created erosion and maintenance challenge.

ITD was able to restore the streams to a more natural condition, which in turn should have a positive effect on the surrounding ecosystem. Building the bridge had less of an impact on the environment than replacing the existing multi-plate culvert. In addition, the new bridge will aid in restoring the habitat to allow unrestricted migration of wildlife and flow of the waterways. Establishing the stream channel under the new bridge helped restore the stream for habitat and encourage safe fish passage under the highway.

Allowing wildlife to pass under the highway also reduces the risk of possible accidents involving wildlife and motorists on the roadway. This section of US-20 has seen 64 vehicle-wildlife collisions over the last five years, which has a societal cost of approximately $2 million when you consider vehicle repair or replacement, medical bills, and raised insurance rates.

This was one of ITD’s first projects incorporating Fabric Encapsulated Soil Lifts (FESL) into a design, an innovative way to efficiently ensure streambank stability during multiple water levels. The FESL allowed ITD to create a stable bank while still promoting vegetative growth.

The project has already improved the environment while enhancing the safety and the natural beauty of the project area. Just a few months after construction, fish were seen swimming upstream to spawn, while several deer (and a moose) were seen traveling ong the channels under the bridges.

The economic impact of the work is also significant, as US-20 is one of the longest routes connecting east and west Idaho in support of oversized commercial traffic

Check out the new Idaho 511

New & Improved 511 Road Report

Idaho 511 is a valuable resource for travelers all year long, and now our newest version of the website has officially launched! Take some time to get familiar with the layout and check out the features.

Head to 511.idaho.gov to try out the latest Idaho 511. Your favorite features from our “Full Featured” website are all still there, including the cameras, road reports, traffic speeds, and more. However, now you will find them listed in the layers menu on the right side of your screen. Check the boxes next to your preferred map icons to turn them on, and uncheck the boxes to turn map icons off.

New map layers include Waze Reports, which are citizen road reports from Waze App users, as well as a variety of weather related options. Putting a checkmark in the Weather Radar box for example, will show you where precipitation is falling across the state.

On the left side of your screen (or below on a phone or tablet) severe weather cameras and critical events, road closures, or blockages are displayed as they are happening. These give you an instant look at current situations statewide that may have direct impact on your travel.

With a Your 511 personalized account, you can also choose to save your favorite cameras now, in addition to your favorite routes and places. And when zoomed out on the map, multiple cameras or events in one specific area will group together to display in a “cluster.” This grey or green circle shows the number of cameras or events. Simply click on the circle and the map will automatically zoom in to that area.

“We are excited to update our technology and still give travelers the user friendly Idaho 511 they are used to,” said ITD Travel Services Coordinator Tony Ernest. “Since late 2019, we’ve asked 511 users to test the new site and provide feedback. This input has helped our development team immensely in making sure drivers have easy access to the resources they need.”

Commercial truck drivers will no longer need a separate version of Idaho 511. The improved Idaho 511 features a Commercial Vehicle tab that selects appropriate trucking related map layers like Restrictions, Truck Ramp locations, and Weigh Stations.

Our “Streamlined” low bandwidth version of Idaho 511 will stick around for a little while longer, but get ready for that page to retire in late spring. Start using the new Idaho 511 now so you’re prepared!

Click here to visit the new Idaho 511.

ITD’s Annual Report Video shows commitment to serving Idaho

Every year, ITD publishes an annual report that communicates the department’s efforts to improve the safety, mobility, and economic opportunity of Idaho’s citizens. This year, we took those efforts even further by transformed the report into something that could be easily accessed and consumed by the public — a video.

In a brief eight-minute video, the annual report showcases ITD’s numerous achievements in fiscal year 2020, as well as a high level look at the department’s customer-focused performance measures.

The report also shows how ITD navigated the challenges brought on by COVID-19 in 2020, by keeping Idaho’s ports of entry open and operating and continuing to provide needed services to Idaho’s citizens throughout the pandemic.

You can view the annual report video below. ITD also creates a hard copy version of their annual report every year.

ITD wins COMPASS Leadership in Motion Award

Tow Truck

A pilot program on I-84 construction zones designed to increase efficient movement of people and commerce won a leadership award for enhancing safety through a key corridor.

The Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS) selected the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) Safety Patrols Program on I-84 as the winner for the “Leadership in Government, Canyon County” category for their annual Leadership in Motion awards.

The Safety Patrols pilot program was an idea introduced by ITD Emergency Management Planner Neal Murphy after seeing similar programs in other states. Murphy pitched the program to GARVEE Managers Amy Schroeder and Mark Campbell as a way to increase safety for emergency responders, construction workers, and the traveling public while ensuring traffic was able to flow at a steady pace.

“Mark and I coordinated with ITD Contracting Services to build a contract and worked through numerous issues before getting it to the Tow Association.” Murphy explained. “We also coordinated operations with Idaho State Police, ISP dispatch, and State Communications ensure ITD had a sound product to serve the traveling public. It was a team effort to make this happen and hopefully it will be a model for future Idaho construction projects in large cities.”

The service operates during weekday peak hours and as needed for special occasions such as traffic shifts or closures, holidays and public events. The services include assisting with breakdowns, accidents and law enforcement traffic assistance. Craig Parker is the primary contractor operating the tow. His goal is to remove the vehicle and occupants from the work zone and take them to a safe location off the interstate to enhance their safety while reducing traffic delays.

From the time the service began in December 2019 through August 2020, the Safety Service Patrol has completed 154 assists/tows. This includes 81 breakdowns, 44 accidents, and 29 law enforcement assists with zero serious injuries or stuck-by events.

In addition, ISP’s increased presence in this high priority construction corridor has resulted in an improvement in officer response times in the work zone. ISP has made 1,613 contacts and traveled 17,568 miles since the beginning of construction.

ITD was commended for providing prompt and safe response times to stranded motorists, reducing congestion and increasing reliability of travel times.

The COMPASS Leadership in Motion Awards recognize businesses, individuals, and projects that demonstrate leadership in supporting the Treasure Valley’s regional long-range transportation plan. Last year, ITD District 3 Administrator Caleb Lakey received an award for the “Leadership in Practice, Professional” category.

Recipients of LIM award
L to R: Schroeder, Murphy, Campbell, Parker

ITD and AGC announce Excellence in Construction Partnering Award winners

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) and the Idaho Associated General Contractors (AGC) announced the winners of the Excellence in Construction Partnering Awards at the ITD monthly board meeting Thursday, Dec. 17. 

The Excellence in Construction Partnering Awards recognize outstanding partnering efforts between ITD employees and the contractor community. Good construction project partnering results in the delivery of quality projects, on time and within budget, which benefits Idaho travelers and taxpayers overall. 

The inaugural awards competition was announced in October as a joint collaboration between ITD Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney and Wayne Hammon, CEO of the Idaho Associated General Contractors. Applicants were encouraged to submit for construction contracts underway today and those built within the last three years. 

The applications were reviewed by a judging panel of state and local partners and evaluated on criteria related to how well the project: 

  • Resolved conflict 
  • Improved communication on the project with all audiences 
  • Utilized innovative solutions 
  • Incorporated team building activities 
  • Honored stakeholders 
  • Achieved a common goal 

The winners, announced at the ITD monthly board meeting this December, were recognized for earning gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention awards.

A rockslide blocks US-95 near Riggins in July 2020.

One project was unanimously selected as the ‘Top Gold’ award winner, for its outstanding partnering efforts and uniquely difficult circumstance—the rockslide removal and rock blasting project on US-95 following a rockslide near Riggins in July 2020.

Below is a comprehensive list of the 2020 Excellence in Construction Partnering Award winners: 

Top Gold Award: Scarsella Bros. Inc. & ITD District 2
US-95 Rockslide Removal and Rock Blasting Project
 

Gold Award: N.A. Degerstrom Inc. & ITD District 1
I-90 Pennsylvania Ave Overpass Bridge Replacement Project
 

Gold Award: Cannon Builders & ITD District 5
I-15 Northgate Interchange Project
 

Gold Award: Concrete Placing Company Inc. & ITD District 3 & Ada County Highway District
Cloverdale Road Overpass Bridge Replacement Project
 

Gold Award: Bros. Inc. & ITD District 1
Junction SH-53 Interchange UPRR Bridge Project
 

Gold Award: Westing Construction Inc. & ITD District 4
Raft River Bridge Eastbound and Westbound Lanes Project
 

Gold Award: West Construction Inc. & Local Highway Technical Assistance Council
Old Highway 37 The Narrows Project
 

Silver Award: Poe Asphalt Paving Inc. & District 2
Webb Road to Aspen Lane Pavement Project 

Silver Award: Idaho Materials & Construction & ITD District 4
US-93 200 South Road 4-Lane Widening Project 

Silver Award: Knife River Corporation & ITD District 4
US-20 Willow Creek and Rock Creek New Bridges Project 

Silver Award: Idaho Materials & Construction & ITD District 3 & Costco
US-20/26 Costco Public Road Improvements Project 

Silver Award: Knife River Corporation & ITD District 3
I-84 Blacks Creek Road Interchange Reconstruction Project 

Bronze Award: Central Paving Company Inc. & District 3
US-95 Elephant Butte Swelling Clays Highway Reconstruction Project 

Bronze Award: Wadsworth Construction & ITD District 3
SH-55 Snake River Bridge Replacement Project 

Honorable Mention: Western Construction Inc. & ITD District 4
I-84 Jerome Interchange to Twin Falls Interchange Project 

Honorable Mention: Concrete Placing Company Inc. & ITD District 3
I-84 Northside Blvd to Franklin Blvd Project 

Honorable Mention: DePatco Inc. & ITD District 6
US-20 Ashton Hill Bridge to Dumpground Road Project 

Honorable Mention: Mountain West Electric Inc. & ITD District 6
D8 Signals Project 

The goal of the awards is to increase awareness about partnering efforts by recognizing team solutions, sharing lessons learned, and highlighting best practices for infrastructure projects of all types and sizes 

“Construction partnering on projects is just good business,” McElhinney said. “ITD and the AGC value project partnering to help complete transportation projects across Idaho in a timely, professional, and responsive manner.” 

2020 Excellence in Construction Partnering Award Winning Entries

Idaho Ready: Winter driving insight from ITD’s snow plow operators

In Idaho you have to be prepared for all sorts of winter weather, and that means being Idaho Ready to drive safely. The Idaho Transportation Department wants drivers to have the knowledge and resources to do that, before they hit the road. Read the messages below to gain some winter driving insight from ITD’s own snow plow operators.

Blasting operations underway on ID-55

Rock blasting is underway between Smiths Ferry and the Rainbow Bridge as road construction continues on ID-55.

The goal is to make this narrow, curvy mile-long stretch of state highway safer, by building wider shoulders, adding guardrail, and straightening the road.

140,000 cubic yards of rock need to come off the canyon, and it’s happening one controlled blast at a time. How do they do it? It takes a lot of work and careful planning.

Strategically spaced holes are drilled into the rock differing in size and depth depending on the situation, then the explosives are placed inside.

“We’re using a nitro glycerin based dynamite as a primer, and then we use ammonium nitrate as a blasting agent,” said Blast Operator Ryan Miller. “Each hole is timed, a 40th of a second. We shot that in a V, and the reason it stayed on the hill is because we shot the center first, and kind of sucked it uphill.”

Each blasting design plan is closely reviewed.

“The whole idea is to move the rock in the direction we want it to. We don’t want to launch into the river, fly rock is our enemy,” Miller added.

Through late November, weather permitting, the work zone is closed to traffic every Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. so crews can safely blast and haul away the rock.

Drivers are urged to plan around the closures or use US-95 as a detour.

“We don’t want people or cars traveling through the work zone during blasting. It’s also an incredibly tight work zone with the river off to the east and the rock faces out to the west. So giving the contractor that four hours is really letting them be as efficient as possible,” said Project Engineer Alex Deduck.

Steel containers and temporary barrier keep the falling rock from getting in the travel lane, and protect the crews working in this steep canyon. When the road is not fully closed, one lane is open to alternating traffic.

“Now that we’ve reduced it to one lane it’s even tighter, and just a hard area to work in,” Deduck said.

This winter, construction will pause and both lanes will be open.

In the spring, blasting picks back up with full road closures Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and during the busy summer, one lane will be open to alternating traffic Monday through Friday morning. Both lanes will be open Friday afternoon through Sunday.

You can learn more about the project and sign up for updates at itdprojects.org/ID55smithsferry. The project is expected to finish in late fall 2022.

For the latest road conditions, be sure to download the Idaho 511 app or visit 511.idaho.gov.

Bulldozing Through COVID

Even during these challenging and uncertain times, the world of construction just keeps on pushing forward. While construction continues to ramp up, the number of qualified people in the industry is dwindling — but not for long.

Through partnerships between the Idaho Transportation Department, Baker Technical Institute, Idaho Rural Water Association, and the Federal Highway Administration, 20 men and women will be certified to operate select heavy equipment on Idaho construction projects.

“Students will enter the workforce with certifications in Heavy Equipment Operation, and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. They will also receive fork lift training and OSHA-10 certification,” said Jessika Phillips of the Idaho Transportation Department’s Office of Civil Rights.

The class started on September 14 and runs through October 16. At the conclusion of the course, a “Field Day” will be held to showcase the skills these students have learned to potential employers, on five different pieces of heavy construction equipment. Media is invited on October 6, and potential employers the following day, October 7.

“This is just another of the many ways the Federal Highway Administration works with its Idaho partners to grow the specialized talent we need to keep America’s roads and bridges safe. The most important investment we can make in our nation’s highway system is in the people entrusted to protect it,” said Michael Caliendo with the Federal Highway Administration.

——————

WHAT: Heavy Equipment Operator Combine
WHEN: Media – October 6, 2020 @10 a.m.
Employers – October 7, 2020 @ 10 a.m.
WHERE: I-84 Exit 64. One mile north on Black Creek Road. Turn left at Premier Aggregate and follow the road to the end.

—————–

Questions should be addressed to ITD’s Jessika Phillips at 208-334-8152 or Jessika.Phillips@itd.idaho.gov and Doug Dalton of Baker Technical Institute (the firm doing the instruction)  at 208-861-2749 or Doug.Dalton@bakersd.org

 

ITD updates Traffic Tracker tool to show historical data

before and after photo of the traffic tracker tool

The Idaho Transportation Department is updating its popular Traffic Tracker tool to provide traffic counts for the previous five years, expanding the available information and providing better context to those making use of the data.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE UPDATED TRAFFIC TRACKER TOOL

The Traffic Tracker was launched in March, when the coronavirus pandemic hit Idaho. It was designed to track the acute, day-to-day changes in traffic patterns across the state. This information was helpful to businesses, healthcare providers, and emergency managers in understanding the impacts of lockdown. As time went by, trends emerged and the detailed data became unwieldy and unhelpful.

The update, launched Monday Aug. 3, draws from the same automatic traffic recorders as the original tool. Now, however, the data is averaged to monthly counts and plotted alongside the previous five years of data.

“We have been tracking this data for years now,” said Margaret Pridmore, ITD Roadway Data Manager. “This is information we’ve been gathering into reports for ITD executives and the Governor’s Office. With the innovation of the original traffic tracker interface, we’re now able to make this data readily available to the general public. It’s a great step in increasing transparency and providing helpful information to the people we serve.”

With a monthly comparison year over year, the information puts into context the broader impact of the pandemic on travel across Idaho. There has been a steady increase in traffic the last five years due to the exceptional growth of the state and a booming economy. Those numbers took a nose dive in March and April, quickly rebounding in May. Currently, average travel volumes are still slightly lower than previous years, but the trend is increasing – and there are some notable exceptions.

“We’re seeing record travel to remote areas of the state, such as the Central Mountains,” said Pridmore. “Boise County in particular is seeing more vehicles on Idaho Highways 55 and 21. It is a sign of people getting out of denser population centers during the pandemic.”

The monthly traffic reports are generally completed by the second week of a month. Compared to the previous day-to-day data of the original Traffic Tracker tool, these numbers will be quality checked before publishing.