ITD wins two AASHTO President’s Awards for excellence in transportation industry

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department won a pair of President’s Awards from the American Association of Transportation and Highway Officials (AASHTO), signifying excellence in the transportation industry from among all 50 state departments, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

ITD won in the Environment category for a project on US-12 in north-central Idaho and in the Research category for a project in southwestern Idaho on US-95.

The announcement was made Oct. 8 at AASHTO’s annual meeting, which was held this year in St. Louis, Missouri.

ITD has won 15 AASHTO President’s Awards since 2010.

The US-12 Environment project (pictured above) involved two bridges on the highway, plus repaving the 50 miles of pavement between the two structures.

The highway borders the pristine Lochsa River through abundant U.S. Forest Service lands and provides access to popular fishing spots and hot springs; it also gives the trucking community a scenic shortcut into Montana as it winds its way up to Lolo Pass. The Lochsa River is a Wild and Scenic River, and is a breeding ground for steelhead, bull trout and salmon. ITD partnered with Idaho Fish & Game to allow fish to be carefully counted and relocated from the water under the bridges. In addition, all equipment on the project was rinsed before entering the work corridor and inspected by professionals to ensure noxious weeds were not transported outside the project area.

ITD pushed start dates for paving operations later into the summer to avoid the peak of rafting season, when shuttles are busy in the corridor. This partnership expanded to include shuttling pedestrians and cyclists through the corridor during paving.

The bridge plans outlined methods to avoid impacting a nearby Native American tribal property.

“It is such an outstanding honor to be recognized for this work on the scenic US-12 Lochsa Corridor,” ITD north-central Idaho District Engineer Doral Hoff said. “This award could not have been achieved if not for the enormous collaborative effort that went in to this work. Many agencies, individuals and groups came together to ensure not only the protection of the environment, but also to find a successful path forward to achieve the work so people traveling and experiencing the corridor could do so safely and efficiently.”

The Research project (pictured below) on US-95 just south of the Marsing Port of Entry in Owyhee County was the solution to a problem with swelling clay under the roadbed. The clay was swelling up to seven inches in spots and damaging the pavement, thus shortening the life of the roadway, while also creating safety issues. The solution involved the use of geocells and put Idaho on a short list – Israel is the only other place to use this technique.

Geocells are typically used for erosion control on the ground’s surface, so it was a new experience for ITD, the contractor, and the manufacturers of the materials.

A research project looking into the viability of using geocells was conducted by Boise State University and sponsored by ITD.

“I am very proud of our entire ITD team for their accomplishments with this unique project,” explained ITD Southwest Idaho District Engineer Amy Revis. “I also want to acknowledge Boise State University for their collaboration with us on this project. This project is an excellent example of how our team always rises to the occasion when they are faced with a challenge. They are willing to put in the extra effort and think outside the box to find the best solution for the traveling public.”

There have been no crashes on that stretch of roadway since the geocells were put in place, according to Owyhee County Sheriff Chief Deputy Lynn Bowman.





ITD’s top 2019 innovations celebrated as Best of the Best

Best of the Best: Innovate ITD

The culmination of the year’s innovation efforts for the department put the spotlight on several money- and time-saving ideas that improve efficiencies, stretch taxpayer dollars and improve services for the main ITD customer – the road user.

This year’s Best of the Best were selected after Innovation Stewards from the districts and divisions named their favorites and the Innovative Business Practices team weighed in. Employees from all over the department then cast their votes over a two-week period to arrive at the final list. The winning innovations and teams were announced at the all-employee pizza party Sept. 19.

“Innovation is just how we get better every day,” Chief Administrative Officer and ITD Innovation Champion Char McArthur said at the event.

Watch the Best of the Best video shown at the pizza party here.

In case you missed it, here they are again:

More than a third of the innovations submitted in FY19 were in the Safety category, a clear reflection of the emphasis that the department has put on the safety of employees and safer overall operations. That brings us to our first Best of the Best winner:

Title – ITD PPE Program
The department’s focus on employee safety led to an upgrade in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) last year, including more reflective nighttime clothing, a change in the color of our safety vests so that drivers could better see ITD employees working on the side of the road, and an upgrade in safety footwear as ITD unveiled a Boots Program. These ideas all came from hearing the safety concerns of employees. The first pillar in ITD’s mission statement is Your Safety, and that clearly extends beyond just the safety of the traveling public to our own workers!

Title – Jersey Barrier Puller
ITD’s Caldwell maintenance shed came up with an innovation last year that saves time, reduces employee risk, and could save tens of thousands of dollars in equipment costs per location. The crew often has to realign jersey barriers that are hit by cars. It took them days to cover the miles of barriers within the urban Interstate 84 corridor. So, they machined a hydraulic attachment for a plow truck that is much safer and faster than the old method. The new barrier mover is slated to save more than 1,000 hours and about $21,000 in equipment costs for the Caldwell shed. Other areas may see more or less savings, based on the amount of time devoted to realigning median barriers.

Title – Auxiliary Brine Applicator
In the Mobility category, the Montpelier maintenance shed came up with an innovation that quickly applied salt brine to areas of greatest need, or to add brine directly to granular salt. The goal, said Foreman DeLoy Romrell, was to “make us more efficient” by adding a brine application system to the trucks putting salt on the roads and specifically targeting wheel paths to clear those areas more quickly for the public. They outfitted three of their salt trucks with gravity-flow brine bars on the back of the sanding chute and also built in an extra brine saddle tank. The spray nozzle helps them target “trouble” areas like bridges, overpasses, school zones or curves.

Title – Port of Entry Enhancement
Updating 25-year-old systems for credentialing motor carriers improves the service our ports of entry give commercial drivers. Designing, building and implementing this new system will enhance the accuracy of data. It also saves about 15,000 hours for our people by automating manual data-entry processes. In the case of a customer who is meeting all requirements satisfactorily, they are able to bypass the POE, thus increasing the safety and economic mobility of freight on Idaho’s highways. The POE team saw a need and an opportunity to enhance the systems to provide staff with a tool to achieve ITD’s mission and provide the best service to customers.

Title – Training Skills for Subject Matter Experts
Sometimes the people who know their topic better than anyone else, lack the skills to convey that knowledge to other employees who can help them. With an increasingly new and inexperienced workforce, there is a need for Subject Matter Experts to pass along their experiences and technical know-how. The ITD Training & Development staff is offering courses specifically designed to fill that gap. Trainers David Nichols and Renae Beal put together a training course for SMEs in the Consulting Services group. Beal taught the course again for the DMV Policy and Program Management team, and Nichols said the class, called Introduction to Training Design & Delivery, will be offered starting this fall. And all of this translates to better customer service.

Title – Open Door Visibility
When Allen Ploss from the Jerome Maintenance crew found himself with a bunch of scrap pieces of reflective tape that were destined for the garbage bin, he thought of another time-saving use that would help improve safety for those on the road. Allen took the scraps and applied them to the inside of the truck’s door on the doorjamb.  When the door is open and sticking out from the side of the vehicle, the reflective tape will shine in the lights of an approaching vehicle at night, preserving the safety of the worker and the driver. The reflective strips can also be affixed to the outer edges of a snowplow for safer nighttime or low-light operation.

Title – SNOW (Safely Navigating Our Winter)
Preparing inexperienced drivers for winter conditions on Idaho roads is a challenge each year. The winner in the Customer Service category comes from the S.N.O.W. team — Safely Navigating Our Winter. The SNOW team, with members from divisions and districts all across the department, developed an outreach program to share safety message with young drivers. To accomplish this, the team developed a plan that included everything from a presentation outline and ITD snow-operations facts, to classroom activities and winter-related handouts and giveaways. Developing an outreach packet was just the beginning, and S.N.O.W. is working on a large-scale push of the program this fall and winter. The ultimate goal is to repeat the outreach year after year. By reaching these young drivers before the snow flies, they hope to encourage safer winter driving.

It won’t be an easy task, but ITD knows how to make big things happen.

Making it safer, more efficient, saving time and money, and improving service — that’s the heartbeat of Innovate ITD!

ITD Director Ness presents to U.S. House Subcommittee July 11

ITD Director Brian Ness presented to the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on July 11 regarding the importance of research and innovation in maximizing transportation budgets.

It was likely the most significant national stage for an ITD Director since Darrell Manning was the national American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) president in the early ‘70s.

Ness, who also serves as the Chairman of the AASHTO Special Committee on Research and Innovation, spoke to the Subcommittee about the many benefits that come from investment in transportation research. Ness, along with a few other state DOT chiefs, advocated for more federal investment, saying it would serve to multiply those positive results.

“For example, the state of Indiana spent $3.9 million on research projects in 2017 and they report that five of those research projects saved the state just under $190 million,” explained Ness. “What a great return on investment, saving 46 dollars for every dollar spent on research!”

He added that ITD used federal research dollars to help develop a new concrete mix called ‘High Early Strength Concrete’ for use in accelerated bridge construction. “That study proved the new mix can replace Ultra-High Performance Concrete, which costs $10,000 to $15,000 per cubic yard, and reduce the cost to $800 per cubic yard –a cost reduction of more than 90%.”

Ness was joined by Minnesota DOT Assistant Commissioner Tim Henkel in presenting to the subcommittee. Henkel also spoke about beefing up funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s Exploratory Advanced Research program.

“FHWA has a good program, but its funding level – just $6 million annually – is rather low,” he explained. “Universities ought to be the best sources for carrying out fundamental research, but matching requirements and program directives seeking near-term solutions appear to be resulting in a preponderance of applied research that is crowding out fundamental research.”

Director Ness concluded his testimony with one last push for funding:

“By coordinating, collaborating, pooling and leveraging time and money, and utilizing the combined knowledge and expertise of our diverse research community, we are making significant contributions and improvements to the advancement of our nation’s transportation system,” he explained.

Ness explained that investment in research, development and subsequent innovation is not only a wise use of taxpayer money, but also helps these states find ways to build or repair roads and bridges faster and more efficiently.

Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Mich., the subcommittee’s chairwoman, introduced the topic by saying “Investing in research and development is critical to developing smart, resilient, and cost-effective transportation infrastructure for the future.”

Quotes are courtesy of AASHTO.

US-20 in Idaho officially renamed as a Medal of Honor Highway during ceremony and sign unveiling in Caldwell

Medal of Honor Sign

Idaho Governor Brad Little, Idaho legislators, representatives from the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Idaho Transportation Department officially celebrated the renaming of US-20 in Idaho as a Medal of Honor Highway this morning (July 1) in Caldwell.

During the 2019 Idaho legislative session, a bill co-sponsored by Senator Abby Lee and Representative Scott Syme called for US-20 in Idaho to be renamed as a Medal of Honor Highway. After unanimous approval by the Idaho Senate and House, Governor Little signed that bill this spring.

“The official renaming of US-20 in Idaho recognizes past, present, and even future Medal of Honor recipients for their great bravery in service to our country,” Governor Little said. “The timing of today’s ceremony couldn’t be more poignant, just days away from Independence Day and the celebration of our freedom, which would not exist without the sacrifices of America’s Medal of Honor recipients and all veterans.”

A ceremony and sign unveiling was hosted in Caldwell at one of the 11 locations across US-20 in southern Idaho, where new Medal of Honor signs will be installed.

US-20 in Idaho runs from the Oregon state line to the Montana border. The length of the highway spans from Oregon to Massachusetts.

The Military Order of the Purple Heart is working with each state that US-20 runs through with the goal of the entire length eventually being renamed a Medal of Honor Highway from coast to coast.

To earn the Medal of Honor, a member of the Armed Forces had to act with “with conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty at the risk of life during combat against an enemy of the United States.”

ITD’s new annual report video showcases department’s efforts to benefit citizens

Annual Report Innovation

BOISE – Utilizing another communication channel to expand outreach of the department’s accomplishments and mission, ITD added a video component to its usual hardcopy version of the annual report.

In less than eight minutes, the annual report video summarizes the highly successful 2018 fiscal year and how the department worked to meet the safety, mobility, and economic opportunity needs of Idaho citizens.

“Normally, we print the report on paper and also provide an electronic version on the ITD website,” explained ITD Director Brian Ness. “This year, we wanted to bring our success story to life in a way we never have before.”

Clicking this link will take you to the video result of that effort, highlighting ITD’s achievements in 2018. The traditional hardcopy document is also available here.

The Annual Report video is the story of innovation, excellence, and dedication, and shows the excellent results of Idaho’s transportation investments in 2018.

Extreme winter weather closes roads, stretches resources

A series of winter storms pounded Idaho this week, bringing heavy snowfall to the region and causing multiple road closures. The extreme weather forced ITD to rally personnel and equipment to meet the challenge. The department shifted equipment and staffing resources as best as possible around the state. It has been all-hands-on deck for much of the last two weeks as crews continue working hard to plow and clear roads as quickly and safely as possible.

From new snow to low visibility, drifting, and several avalanches or threats of slides, the department was hit hard in several areas. The worst winter weather seemed to reside in eastern Idaho, while avalanche conditions in District 3 and District 4 made several popular routes impassable.

“ITD’s primary mission is maintaining the safety and mobility of Idaho’s transportation system,” said ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes. “We only close roads when the traveling public and our ITD crews are in jeopardy. If a road is closed, that means it is completely impassable and unsafe for travel.”

For current road conditions and updates, please check the department’s traveler advisory site,

The department also has a winter readiness website. Please visit Idaho Ready.

ITD expands outreach with first-ever podcast

Utilizing a new and more modern communication tool to expand outreach to the driving public prior to major commute impacts on Interstate 84, ITD’s GARVEE and Communication offices recently collaborated to launch an ITD podcast. The intent of this innovation is to reach a different audience than television, radio, or other media.

The initial focus of the podcast is on widening I-84 in Canyon County. Future podcasts will address significant milestones and upcoming traffic switches as the work in the Nampa-to-Caldwell corridor kicks into high gear later this summer and for the next few construction seasons. 

The I-84 Corridor team brainstormed the podcast idea back in 2018 and began to work on the first few podcasts late last year. Communication Manager Vince Trimboli emcees the podcast and brings on various guest experts to discuss specific topics.

You can listen to the first podcast here:

“The podcast is an outreach tool that the department hadn’t yet put into practice, and we thought that with the many commuters on the I-84 corridor, perhaps we could give people another way to keep in touch with what we’re planning and doing in the corridor,” said GARVEE Manager Amy Schroeder, Trimboli’s first guest on the podcast.

The podcast name “Drive Idaho” was chosen because it represents what the department does every day, and can be used statewide.

D4’s Brumfield uses Wishes for Warriors program

With so much time spent within the walls of our respective trucks, sheds, cubicles and offices, it’s easy to forget that each and every ITD employee lives a life outside of the department. Some may appear to be more colorful than others, more peppered with joy or riddled with strife, but each one has a story to tell should he or she be willing to share.

Let’s take a look this week at Brent Brumfield, a GIS Analyst who joined District 4 of ITD just over a year ago, in December of 2017. Brumfield spends a lot of his time outside of work giving back to those who have given so much to this country.

Originally from Calistoga, California, Brent moved to south-central Idaho via Billings, Montana, where he majored in Environmental Management and Policy at Rocky Mountain College. During his last semester of college, he accepted an offer from AECOM to handle oil and gas remediation, thus kick-starting his professional career.

But his story begins long before Brent accepted his first GIS job offer. In fact, it begins before he even went to college. As a young man of 20 years, he made the decision to join the United States Marine Corps. This story starts there.

“I was really looking for something to change my course in life and I thought that the Marine Corps might be good way to do that,” Brent explained. “I was very close with my grandfather growing up, and he had served as a Marine during WWII. The time he spent serving his country instilled a great amount of pride in my grandfather, and that remained a defining part of his character for the entirety of his life.”

Although Brent knew he was ready for a change in life, he admits he “had no idea what I was getting into.”

“I went from working as a store clerk and in construction jobs, to driving a 26-ton ‘water tank’ carrying 21 Marines (fully loaded) from ship to shore to established beachheads.”

Brent served eight years in the Marines as an Amphibious Assault Vehicle Crewman. He deployed to Iraq once in 2006 and again in 2007 (as part of the 22nd MEU), got married, and even had a son while serving his country. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and also at Camp Pendleton in California.

After his tenure in the Marine Corps, Brent moved his family to Montana in order to pursue his education. His time in the service was never far from his mind, however, and Brent soon discovered there were other ways he could continue to serve his fellow veterans.

“I got involved with Wishes for Warriors when a friend of mine reached out and asked if I would help organize a waterfowl hunt,” said Brumfield. “I had actually participated in one with Wounded Warrior Battalion back when I was stationed at Camp Pendleton, and that experience had a profound and lasting impression on me.”

Brent believes that giving back to others who have been less fortunate during their time of service is crucial in the road to healing.

“During the time of my grandfather, everyone served in the military, so there were people these men and women could talk to and relate with upon their return from war. That changed after Vietnam,” Brent stated “when suddenly service members returned from duty and felt as though they had to keep their military service and experiences bottled up inside.”

“That’s a big part of why I do what I do. Often times it’s less about hunting and more about being that person willing to lend an ear to someone who simply needs to talk about what they went through then, and what they are going through now.”

Brent, along with Wishes for Warriors, feels that outdoor activities are a great way for veterans to bond – particularly when they happen to be facing some struggles either on an internal or external level.

“It’s always great to see these guys who are down, and within the first day of hunting, there’s a personality shift and their overall outlook is like night and day. Suddenly, they are talking and smiling, and you can see that both a physical and mental change has occurred.”

So what’s on the radar next for Brent? Well, he’s currently working with Wishes for Warriors to organize a fishing trip for salmon and steelhead. “We’re hoping to get out on the water sometime in the next few months,” Brent said. “Hopefully the fish will be biting that day.”

If you would like more information on the Wishes for Warriors organization, or to see how to participate, visit

ITD earns North American Excellence nod for customer journey via historical photos

The Idaho Transportation Department recently earned a North American Excellence award for its Historical Photo Library archive, which has so far taken 50,000 citizens on a unique customer journey through the past.

Knowing that a people’s history is vitally important, and should be available without charge, ITD set about digitizing tens of thousands of historical photos in 2016. The free photo-retrieval service launched in May 2018.

ITD kept the process very simple, knowing that if retrieving the photos proved too complex, it would undermine efforts to make the photos accessible.

The site gives citizens the opportunity to uncover early Idaho highway history through a free online archive of more than 30,000 historical images.

ITD’s free photo collection is at

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.

Below is a link to a short video that will walk you through the process:

The Idaho State Archives did all the digitizing of the photos under contract with ITD. The department hopes to continue adding to the collection, if funding is available.

The following groups may especially be interested in accessing these historical photos.

  • Genealogists
  • Historians
  • Idaho History Teachers
  • Idaho Homeschool Associations
  • Libraries
  • Museum Associations
  • Researchers
  • Universities/Colleges

Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, Nov. 11-17, recognizes critical safety role

BOISE – First responders, who play a critical safety role every day in managing traffic incidents in Idaho, are being recognized throughout the state Nov. 11-17 during Traffic Incident Response Awareness Week, as officially proclaimed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

These responders help fight rising costs by helping to clear roadways faster and protect drivers.

“These men and women are truly our unsung heroes on the highway,” said Gov. Otter. “They keep commerce in our state moving and ensure we get to work and back home on time. They work all hours of the day and night, and even on holidays, to keep our families and loved ones safe.

“This week, and every week, I encourage motorists to help keep them safe, by slowing down and moving over when you see them doing their jobs.

Roadway incidents can occur at any time and often require police, fire, emergency medical services, tow companies, and transportation workers. In an emergency, those first responders are critical to the protection of life and reduction of secondary crashes.

They also play a critical economic role.

While the cost of traffic incidents has increased by 85% in the last four years according to the American Automobile Association (AAA), responders help to reduce those staggering costs — $6 million average societal cost for a fatal crash, and $126,000 on average for an injury crash.

Those costs include lost earnings, medical bills, emergency services, property damage, and travel delays, among others.

Traffic incident responders in Idaho have contributed substantially to the prompt treatment of patients, clearance of roadways, and increased mobility of travelers. Rubbernecking or blocked lanes from crashes account for up to a quarter of all congestion.

Travelers can in turn protect responders by driving engaged and moving over when incident responders are present. Tragically, traffic incidents are the leading cause of death for EMS responders and law enforcement officers.

“They ensure our safety; we can do our part to ensure theirs,” said ITD Emergency Program Manager Neal Murphy.