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.”

ITD brings state Christmas tree to Idaho’s Capitol on Monday

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) delivered Idaho’s state Christmas tree to the steps of the Capitol on Monday morning.

This year’s tree, which is always a blue spruce, stands at approximately 45 feet tall and will be cut down to around 35 feet tall before it is decorated with 11,000 LED lights.

The Boise Police Department will provide traffic control, and the Idaho Department of Lands will cut the tree down. The tree will be held upright by a crane until it is laid down on ITD’s 50-foot transport truck and from there taken to the Capitol. The tree will then be lowered into a 9-foot-hole that is designed for this very occasion.

ITD has been safely transporting Idaho’s Christmas tree for more than 20 years.

“We are honored to be part of a tradition that brings so much joy to Idahoans. We look forward to it every year,” Foreman Travis Dodd said.

This year and next year will be especially short trips for ITD as the trees will be harvested from behind the Capitol within the 600 block of West State Street. The Capitol administration team keeps a list of all the eligible trees people around the area want to donate, and in August the state’s Christmas tree is selected from that list. Last year’s tree came from Harrison Boulevard.

If you are headed to the mountains to get your own Christmas tree,  ITD wants to remind you to be prepared by having an emergency kit in your car that includes:

  • Flashlight
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitty litter
  • Chains
  • Small shovel
  • First aid kit
  • Food and water
  • Small sleeping bag or blanket, winter coat, gloves, waterproof boots
  • Ice scraper
  • Phone charger.

Before any winter travel, drivers should use 511.idaho.gov or the Idaho 511 app to check road conditions, cameras, and weather reports before heading out to cut down a Christmas tree.

ITD truck & trailer for transporting the tree
The Christmas tree will be put on this transporter truck and then delivered to the Capitol.

Getting panhandle drivers “Idaho Ready” for winter!

ISP Trooper and ITD plow driver teaching during a winter driving safety class in Coeur d'Alene

Each year the Idaho Transportation Department urges people to be “Idaho Ready” for winter, and two employees in North Idaho are putting those words into action!

For anyone new here, “Idaho Ready” is a campaign rolled out each year through the Idaho Office of Highway Safety encouraging residents to understand that in our beautiful state there are a few strings attached when it comes to winter driving. Being prepared for conditions, understanding safety, and planning ahead are all tools that can help drivers get from point A to B successfully and safely during our cold, snowy months.

To help drivers, especially those new to the road or to Idaho, TJ Gibson and Gary Davis have stepped up to the plate volunteering to teach winter safe driving courses throughout the panhandle.

When it comes to teaching, Gary is a seasoned professional, having taught the SNOW (Safely Navigate Our Winters) curriculum in conjunction with driver education courses in Bonner County for the last two and a half years.

“This information is important for kids, not just during the fall and winter months, but all year long,” said Davis. To ensure teens during warm-weather classes receive the same information, Gary teaches this course every 2 months in Sandpoint. “I have fun working with them, and I know it makes an impact because there have been times that I’ve run into these kids with their parents in the community and they will pull mom or dad over and introduce them to me saying ‘that’s him, he was the one who taught us all about winter driving and snowplows!’”

“It feels good knowing what I do leaves a lasting impression on these kids and knowing that what I’m up here teaching them is helping to save lives.”

For the first time ever, ITD has also teamed up this fall with Idaho State Police Troopers to offer free Winter Safe Driving courses to the public. Course attendees sit through a 90-minute presentation that covers vehicle preparation, appropriate speed and steering for conditions, and crash safety by Trooper Troy Tulleners, who is featured statewide in a weekly Traffic Tip Tuesday social media vlog. The class is then rounded out by ITD plow operators explaining our snow-fighting methods, equipment and how drivers can interact safely with plows on the road.

On November 4, Gibson, Foreman of the 170 CDA Metro Crew, stood in front of an audience of over 70 teens and adults, introducing them to the world of winter-maintenance operations, road clearing and most importantly, the often-unseen but ultra-effective wing plow that is involved in a majority of strike incidents.

“Of course, when a plow gets hit, the safety of everyone involved is what we worry about most. Beyond that, you also need to understand the time and cost involved with those crashes and what the implications of that are for our force,” explained Gibson. “Each one of those machines is critical to our ability to keep the roads clear and safe, so when one goes down, that means risk goes up.”

“I live in this community too, just like you all, and I’m not immune to being stuck behind a plow every now and again too, but a little bit of patience goes a long way to keeping everyone safe and keeping those trucks on the road.”

Understanding the importance of winter-driving safety, especially when it comes to proper vehicle equipment, several local Les Schwab Tires stores have also partnered with us for these courses, offering a 10% discount on a new set of winter tires to any class participants who bring in their certificate of completion.

Veteran and ITD employee continues to help those in need

Navy Veteran and Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) worker Shawn Denham continues to answer the call of duty; it just looks different these days. Denham is part of ITD’s Incident Response team, a two-person team that aids motorists broken down on Interstate 84 in the Treasure Valley.

The day-to-day mission has no doubt changed since Denham’s five years with the Navy. Denham can now be found jump-starting vehicles, refilling a radiator, changing tires, and providing gas to those stranded along I-84. On average he drives 150 to 200 miles each day looking for motorists in need of help.

ITD’s Incident Response team began in 1997. Since that time crews have responded to well over 100,000 traffic incidents and are often the first on the scene at collisions.

Any incident that clogs the roadway has potential to create secondary crashes, which is why ITD’s Incident Response team is cruising the interstate Monday through Friday. For each minute a crash is not cleared, the chances of a secondary crash increase about three percent.

There is also significant economic benefit to the team. It’s been estimated that in Southwest Idaho, a half-hour delay in an urban setting can equate to $30,000 in lost work productivity.

Eleven percent of ITD’s workforce is made up of veterans. In total, there are 164 veterans at ITD including 12 women and 152 men. The Idaho Transportation Department wants to thank all veterans of the United States Armed Forces for their service.

ITD avalanche team back in Lowman as they prepare for El Niño season and new challenges

SH-21 Avalanche area southern gate

The Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) avalanche team is back in Lowman as they prepare for another season and new challenges. Every winter the team monitors conditions to close roads when necessary for the safety of travelers and maintenance crews.

The four-person team has more than 70 years of combined experience. The team is stationed in Lowman, 20 miles from an avalanche-prone section of State Highway 21 that spans eleven miles from Grandjean to Banner Summit. The team also closely monitors U.S. Highway 12 near the Montana border.

According to avalanche team leader, Bill Nicholson, there are more avalanche paths now than when he started over a decade ago. A wildfire burn scar has changed the landscape.

“When I first got here there were 62 avalanche paths, but on one side of the canyon there was a forest fire. All the trees are now gone. There are not any anchors in there anymore. This area that was not even considered a problem has now become one of our biggest problems. We have around 70 avalanche paths now,” Nicholson said.

SH-21 avalanche-prone sectionAnother difference this winter brings is El Niño. The National Weather Service predicts a milder winter, but Nicholson says less snowpack can sometimes make it even more difficult. He says nothing is the same year to year, so they will use their experience and tools to examine the snowpack like they would any other year. The team relies on specialized weather reports from the National Weather Service, as well as mini weather stations that have been placed in risky areas.

There are only three highways in the United States that fall under the ‘High’ category in the Avalanche Hazard Index: SH-21 in Lowman, State Highway 210 in Utah, and U.S. Highway 550 in Colorado.

ITD’s snow & ice team again best in nation!

Despite more competitors than ever before, the ITD maintenance team took home first-place honors at the Snow & Ice Conference and National Snow Roadeo for the second time in three years. They won it in 2021 and placed second nationally last year.

Winning the overall team award again in Colorado September 29 against 300 competitors from all across the country is impressive,” said ITD Chief Deputy and COO Dan McElhinney. “We are proud of our ITD maintenance roadeo team members for their commitment to skill excellence, work zone safety and representing Idaho as the best in the nation!”

The ITD team (pictured at right) featured Kyler Fullmer and Stacey McCurdy of District 6 (East Idaho), Jed Henderson of District 1 (North Idaho), and Brandon Steffens of District 5 (Southeast Idaho). These were also the top four finishers in the state roadeo competition held in July in Salmon, Idaho.

McCurdy, Henderson and Steffens were also on the team that won the national title in 2021.

“I would like to thank the participants,” said first-year roadeo coordinator Alan Huey. “They were proud to represent ITD and showcase the department’s commitment to safety and the skills that translate into service for Idaho’s drivers each winter.”

“The competition was tough, but the team delivered a top-notch performance.”

Each event featured loads of competitors — Single Axle had 53 participants, Grader had 58, Tandem Axle had 59, and Skid Steer had 69. The Loader event featured 100 participants!

“It’s great that we can come together as a team from all different districts to take first place again this year as an agency,” said D1’s Henderson, who made his third straight trip to nationals this year, and was also a part of ITD’s first title team in 2021. “Everyone performed so well, and I look forward to competing again next year.”

Henderson also expressed his appreciation to Kelley Dick, who is moving on from the roadeos next year after promoting to ITD Fleet Manager.

ITD seeks Public Information Officer to serve SW Idaho region

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) is looking for a full-time Public Information Officer to serve the Southwest Idaho regional office located in Boise, Idaho. The ideal candidate will have experience in the transportation field or familiarity with transportation issues, and will also be media savvy.

This individual will make a difference daily, and will be part of an award-winning agency, dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Idaho through transportation. At ITD, every employee is critical to the mission as we strive to foster an innovative, collaborative workplace where employees can grow and do their best work. This opening is an opportunity to use your media relations, writing, and collaboration skills to promote the department’s mission.

The PIO will join the department’s Office of Communication professionals statewide in telling the story of one of the best transportation departments in the country. Candidates must have strong writing skills, experience interacting with news media, an understanding of how to use social media effectively, and the ability to develop successful outreach campaigns, facilitate public meetings and assist with internal communication.

The position closes Aug. 12.

Prepare for takeoff! Hoodoo Meadows to become next backcountry airport

Map of Hoodoo Meadows location &

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip, located in Lemhi County in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, will become part of the Idaho Transportation Department’s Division of Aeronautics (Aero) stable of backcountry airstrips this summer, bringing the number of remote airstrips throughout the state to 32. (See chart, right).Idaho Backcountry Airports Map & Hoodoo Meadows

Idaho’s main aviation user groups — Idaho Aviation Association (IAA) & Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) — will fund and hire a contractor to clear the existing runway area of vegetation and tree in-growth in preparation for use by pilots and recreational user groups. The runway has become overgrown with vegetation during the last four decades due to the lack of a formal maintenance program.

There are some significant benefits to maintaining Hoodoo and designating it as a backcountry airstrip available to the public:

  • It allows the public to access public lands.
  • It serves as an entry point into the backcountry for sportsmen and hikers to streams, lakes and trails, taking pressure off other areas.
  • It is a safety benefit, allowing access in an emergency landing/forced weather landing situation, and allowing for better response to emergency rescue or recovery situations.
  • It increases accessibility to all including the disabled, medically limited population.

Hoodoo Meadows Airstrip was originally built in 1936 and abandoned in 1985 due to lack of maintenance and unpredictable afternoon winds at a high elevation (8,200 feet). Despite this, there were no accidents recorded during the nearly 50 years it was in service and open to the public. The runway is 2,200 feet long and about 150 feet wide – more than sufficient to accommodate takeoffs and landings.

Idaho Department of Fish & Game, Idaho Division of Aeronautics, and the United States Forest Service started the process of re-establishing maintenance at the airstrip in 2016. Efforts to maintain Hoodoo were shelved as the project was embroiled in budgetary discussions and scope-of-work questions. In early 2020, Aero renewed efforts to address Hoodoo and maintain it as an Idaho backcountry airstrip. The Division of Aeronautics will provide continuing maintenance to the Hoodoo airstrip.

Approval to move forward with adding Hoodoo to Aero’s backcountry stable of airports was granted by the Idaho Transportation Board in April 2021 following recommendation by the Aeronautics Advisory Board. A Special Use Permit granting the go-ahead on the project was signed by the Forest Service on March 3 of this year. A follow-up request to Dept. of Environmental Quality to determine if a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Permit was required was answered on May 11, stating that it was not needed to re-establish maintenance.

See the Hoodoo Meadows webpage for details, FAQs and a list of project supporters.

US-95 Granite North project wins National Recognition Award

The US-95 Granite North project recently won a National Recognition Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) in their 2023 Engineering Excellence Awards. The award recognized both design and construction achievements.

The award was announced March 23 and was presented to ITD project manager Steven Bakker (pictured below) in Washington, DC on June 13. It had been named the ACEC Project of the Year for Idaho on April 10, making it eligible for the national award.

The National Recognition Award is a prestigious distinction honoring projects demonstrating exceptional engineering excellence at the national level. HDR Inc. was the project consultant.

The $21.1 million Granite North expanded the route to accommodate rapid growth in the area. The project began in fall 2020 and finished in November 2022, allowing traffic to use the new road a full year ahead of schedule. The project featured 1.2 million cubic yards of earthwork, funded through ITD’s award-winning GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) program.

The expansion also included 170,000 cubic yards of closely supervised blasting of tough, rocky soils in the area, allowing crews to expand the route to four lanes over Granite Hill. Additional lanes over Granite Hill provide better mobility, and frontage roads improve safety by routing drivers to improved intersections to enter US-95.

Safety First
The project was a top priority, being home to a High-Accident Location in the region. Although the project involved more than 60,000 hours of work time, there were zero OSHA incidents or infractions due to a highly collaborative and proactive “see something, say something” safety mentality. The work improved safety by reducing direct access to the highway and guiding drivers via frontage roads to the best spot for traffic to turn onto the highway. Crews also installed new signage, completed landscaping, and added rumble strips to help in the safety of drowsy or wayward drivers.

“We first won the statewide Engineering Excellence award from ACEC of Idaho in April 2023. Just prior to that we learned that this project would also get the national recognition award in Washington, D.C. It’s very cool to have a relatively small job in rural Idaho be recognized on the national stage,” said Bakker.

No Boundaries

Winter storms across the country have delayed travel, shuttered schools and overwhelmed crews trying to dig out of the snow.

Just because the snow falls, it doesn’t mean that people are going to stop driving. Idaho is a beautiful place to travel. There are so many roads and so many wonderful places to visit. From Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho to Island Park in the eastern art of the Gem State, people come from all around to relish in the unmatched beauty.

On average, there are approximately 7,000 winter-related crashes each year in Idaho. ITD responds to winter storms as they occur and attempts to clear the roads as the snow begins to fall. Crews are successful in keeping winter roads clear and passable even during the storm a whopping 75% of the time! However, in situations where a storm covers a large area, resources can be stretched beyond available limits.

It’s been a tough winter. We have felt that particularly in East Idaho. With little to no breaks between storms, it has put a strain on our crews.

In the region, winter maintenance has stretched resources far beyond what crews could handle on their own. When the word went out asking for assistance in order to keep the roads clear and safe for the traveling public, the response was tremendous.

Several other ITD districts sprang into action, with each sending people to help during the storm. District 3 (SW Idaho) sent four crew members to pitch in and lend a much-needed helping hand. District 2 (North-Central Idaho) sent a couple crew members to lend a hand with the storm. Four other employees from District 2 came down after the storm to assist with the clean-up process. They came ready for action, with a rotary plow in tow! Pictured above are D2’s Jasun Walker and Jon Rice with their rotary plow.

While ITD crews function primarily within their designated district or boundaries, it is safe to say that when one district needs help, we don’t see boundaries, just possibilities.