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 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 Awardsrecognize 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, whichbenefits 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.
Theapplications were reviewed by a judging panel of state and local partnersand evaluated on criteria related tohow well the project:
Improved communication on the project with all audiences
Utilized innovative solutions
Incorporated team building activities
Achieved a common goal
Thewinners,announced at the ITD monthly board meeting this December, were recognized for earning gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention awards.
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: Concrete Placing Company Inc. & ITD District 3 & Ada County Highway District Cloverdale Road Overpass Bridge Replacement Project
Gold Award: Scarsella 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 theawards 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.”
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.
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.
Daylight Savings Time, love it or hate it, ends this Sunday Nov. 1 at 2 a.m. The intention behind the changing of the clocks was to conserve energy used for lighting during both World Wars, but an unintended consequence of that adaptation is an increase in crashes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the day after Daylight Savings Time is one of the most dangerous days to drive. And the darker days place pedestrians at an increased risk as well.
To bring awareness this October during the first ever National Pedestrian Safety Month, the Office of Highway Safety (OHS) developed and implemented a media plan aimed at keeping roadways safe for both motorists and pedestrians.
“The concept was to create a clever outreach campaign that engaged drivers, especially as they travel through school zones,” said OHS Grants Officer Denise Dinnauer. “Young drivers were our main focus this month as they are new to driving and the surprises you can encounter behind the wheel.”
To target the younger demographic, OHS focused on social media platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook. They placed videos like this 25 second animated video appealing to teenage drivers illustrating how life is full of surprises. For instance, a good surprise is finding $20 in your jeans where a bad surprise is a kid coming out of nowhere in a school zone.
Along with animated videos boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram, as well as interactive quizzes, encouraged drivers to look out for pedestrians even if masks may look different this year.
“At one time or another everyone is a pedestrian,” Dinnauer explained. “As drivers, whether we have a lot of experience, or are just starting out, it’s our job to watch out for our neighbors so we can all enjoy walking or biking safely in our communities.”
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.
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.
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.
Dan McElhinney has been selected as the Idaho Transportation Department’s new Chief Operations Officer following a thorough national search. He is expected to begin August 10.
At ITD, McElhinney will be responsible for overseeing more than 12,000 lane miles of highways and roads, more than 1,800 bridges on the State Highway System, as well as the department’s Highway Construction & Operations and Highway Development areas, plus six district offices located in regions around the state.
McElhinney comes to ITD from the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), where he serves as District 10 Director in Stockton.
As District Director, he is responsible for overseeing more than 3,500 lane miles in eight counties, leading 600 employees and managing a nearly $2 billion capital program asset management plan and an annual operating budget of more than $150 million.
Prior to accepting the Stockton position, Dan served as the San Francisco Bay Area Chief Deputy District Director, where he led more than 3,000 employees and had oversight for a construction program in excess of $10 billion.
He is a licensed civil engineer who graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering with Minors in Surveying and Metallurgy.
“One of the things about Dan that really impressed me was when he said a small culvert job in a remote and rural part of the state is just as important as a big construction project in the heart of a densely populated region of the state,” said ITD Director Brian Ness. “Idaho has a lot of those small, rural places, so it is important that the Chief Operations Officer bring the right mindset to work.”
National Work Zone Awareness Week is traditionally held in April, but with more drivers back on highways, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is again spotlighting work zone safety.
ITD asks media partners and drivers to tune in each day this week (May 18 – 23) to the department’s Facebook and Twitter pages to see different types of work zones.
Drivers are familiar with larger road construction projects, which are typically well-marked and have better visibility, but they may not be as familiar with short-duration operations.
These can pop up anywhere, at any time. Whether it is a highway worker stopping to remove a shredded tire or animal carcass from the road, or performing maintenance work like repairing guardrail right next to the travel lanes, these jobs generally put workers closer to the road, and closer to danger. There is less time for the worker or the driver to take evasive action when encountering short-duration operations.
Just last year, an ITD operator was killed outside Arco in a short-duration operation, reminding us all of the importance of being safe and vigilant in work zones across the state.
During this week, ITD also remembers the sacrifices of other workers lost over the years while on the job – many of them were killed in work zones. Since this picture was taken, there have been two more markers added to the Fallen Workers Memorial, bringing the total to 40 workers since 1960.
“Work zones can be the most hazardous areas on our state highway system,” ITD Safety Manager Randall Danner said. “We urge drivers to use extreme caution when passing through these areas so they can arrive at their destination safely and our workers can return home to their loved ones.”
In addition to short-duration maintenance operations, ITD has dozens of projects planned this year with information on itdprojects.org. Each project is different in terms of traffic revisions and reduced speed limits. Please check 511.idaho.gov for traveler information.
Idaho Transportation Department Division of Motor Vehicles employees continue to work hard from home to help Idaho drivers.
During this COVID-19 emergency, DMV Customer Contact Center employees are dedicated to keep assisting Idahoans with their DMV concerns while maintaining safe social distancing protocols. More than 160 people are working from home, answering phone calls related to all aspects of DMV operations. That includes driver’s licenses, vehicle registration and titles, motor carrier registration and permits, and vehicle dealer support. These DMV employees are taking more than 1,000 calls a day from the public, and more than 800 a day from county DMV offices across the state.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented uncertainty. It’s crucial that when the public, counties, or law enforcement of Idaho needs us with questions or assistance we are there on the other end of the call,” said Beth Thompson, Driver Records Program Supervisor. “Behind the scenes, ITD DMV is doing almost the entirety of the work from home. Whether it be a simple change of address or a complex issue regarding a driver’s license and suspension.”
They’re also helping process license and registration renewals by mail, over the phone, and online. As Idaho prepares to reopen for business, county DMV offices are adjusting hours of operation and services. ITD encourages drivers to use the online customer portal at itd.idaho.gov/driveidaho to reduce crowds and keep wait times down.
More Idahoans than ever are now using the DMV’s expanded online services. Online vehicle registrations grew from 16,000 in February to 31,000 in March, and are expected to reach over 40,000 in April. Online driver’s license and ID renewals increased from 900 in February to 2,400 in March, with 7,000 estimated in April.
Driver’s license renewal (not for first-time Star Card)
Acquiring a replacement driver’s license or identification card
Paying driver’s license reinstatement fees
Purchasing a driving record
Vehicle registration renewal
Ordering personalized license plates
Checking status of vehicle plates and titles
Commercial vehicle oversize/overweight permits
Commercial vehicle registrations
The DMV has issued a 90-day extension on some credentials expiring between March 1 and May 31, 2020. This includes driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations that can be renewed online. Those expiring between March 1 and May 31 now have until June 30, 2020 to renew.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has also extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline one year, to October 1, 2021. This gives Idahoans an additional year to get the Star Card, Idaho’s REAL ID.
DMV office hours and services are determined by county sheriffs and assessors and vary statewide. Please contact your county office before you make the trip, and remember you can always call ITD’s DMV Customer Contact Center at 208.334.8000. Employees will be happy to help you even as they work from home.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my Driver Records team for weathering this storm like champions. They have handled it with integrity and grace and continue to give the very best customer service,” Thompson said.