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.

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 itd.idaho.gov/photohistory.

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntVQnzofjsA&feature=youtu.be

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.

Top ITD innovations of 2018 focused on safety, savings, and service

Innovate ITD!, in its fifth year, has so far saved Idaho taxpayers more than $8.5 million in efficiencies that are applied directly back into maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges. Along the way, more than 550 of the innovations have improved customer service, and hundreds more have enhanced mobility or directly impacted safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

ITD’s innovation effort is statewide, employee-driven, and is focused on finding safer, easier and less expensive solutions. It has become a model nationally for organizations looking to get better.

The 2018 Best of the Best competition spotlights innovations in each of seven categories central to the department’s main goals: safety, mobility, economic opportunity, customer service, employee development, time savings and cost savings.

“It is exciting to celebrate employee efforts to make things safer and better,” said ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “Recognizing and celebrating the spirit of innovation that exists in every ITD employee is what Innovate ITD! is all about.”

“The Best of the Best Winners were selected by employees as outstanding representations of innovations and innovators from throughout ITD.”

Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:

• Received 1,428 ideas from employees
• Implemented 951 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of $8.5 million*
• Realized 188,322 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created 551 customer-service improvements

* The savings in time and money are being used to maintain roads and bridges and provide better customer service.

Here are the seven category winners in ITD’s Best of the Best 2018:


In Safety, a hand injury sustained by a worker in another region by reaching into a tailgate to wrestle a rock loose inspired a crew in District 2 to solve a common problem. Bud Converse, Moscow Foreman, went to his crew with a possible solution. Within a few hours they’d welded a pipe to the truck, painted it and placed a bar in the pipe. The aptly named “Bud Bar” is within easy reach of the back of the truck. It is used like a crowbar to wedge open an obstructed tailgate without endangering anyone.

In Mobility, the state’s first double Flashing Yellow Arrow traffic signal helps move traffic through one of the busiest intersections in Coeur d’Alene. The new double FYA signal allows two lanes of traffic to turn left after yielding to oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. The signal more quickly gets passenger vehicles on their way and commercial haulers to market with goods and services.

When bridges are hit by an over-height vehicle, a road can be closed for months, costing taxpayers millions. In the Economic Opportunity category, an innovation was developed to combat this. The minimum bridge heights are measured by bridge inspectors and this information is communicated to the permitting department in an easy-to-follow Google map. They can see which bridges trucks can safely pass under, increasing safety, and saving time by reducing bridge closures.

In the Customer Service category, improvements to the 511 Traveler Services platform will allow drivers to track weather conditions on certain highway routes. ITD partnered with the National Weather Service in Pocatello to add a forecast feature. The platform takes specific forecast information from areas along a section of highway, and creates an overall forecast for that route. This gets useful information to the traveling public, at their fingertips.

The Time Savings winner is an innovative new plow-blade changing cart. In a bad winter, blades have to swapped out up to five times per month. This idea will minimize the old back-breaking method of changing and installing blades by hand. The cart serves as the holder during these operations. They go on easier, and more safely allows crews to get plow trucks on the road more quickly.

In Cost Savings, teamwork saved millions of dollars. District 6, 5 and 4 combined 17 bridge repairs under one contract. This allowed ITD to shave nearly 20 years off the timeline for replacing these bridges, saved about $1.7 million in design costs, and another $3 million off construction. The 6-5-4 project won the 2018 AASHTO President’s Award for Planning. Each of the bridges is over 50 years old, and all will be brought up to current design standards and will be wider & longer.

In the Employee Development category,, new employee onboarding focuses on retaining good employees. Approximately 25% of ITD’s employees started with the department in the last two years. Employee orientation generally takes place on Day One and often includes only routine paperwork. Onboarding, though, is an experience that lasts through the employee’s first 6-18 months.

For new employees, introducing them to the “ITD way” early in the process and allowing them to take ownership of their job is another step in ITD’s mission of being the best transportation department in the country.

And there you have it – this year’s Best of the Best, combining safety, ingenuity and efficiency!

Watch the 2018 Best of the Best video.

ITD wins Environment and Planning honors from nation’s highway organization

BOISE – A bridge-replacement project near Sun Valley and the consolidation of 17 bridge projects in a single contract to reduce time and save millions in taxpayer funds won President’s Transportation Awards from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on Sunday, Sept. 23.

The awards, considered the highest honors for state departments of transportation, were handed out to the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) at AASHTO’s annual conference, held this year in Atlanta, Georgia.

“The key to ITD achieving our vision to become the best transportation department in the country is building strong partnerships within our organization and in the communities across Idaho,” said Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness. “Both of these awards are the result of developing vital collaborations and using innovative ways to better serve our citizens and the traveling public.”

ITD won the Environment award for the Big Wood River Bridge project that replaced the bridge south of Hailey last fall. The design team consulted the Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game regarding wildlife mortality, and added wildlife passage tunnels on both ends of the bridge to reduce vehicle-animal crashes from migrating animals crossing the bridge.

The passageways were designed and built 33-feet wide to maximize the attractiveness of the tunnel to animals — if it was too narrow, it likely would not be used because the animals needed more room for escape in case a predator appeared. It was also built 13-feet tall to accommodate large animals such as elk.

Additional lanes improved traffic flow around slower recreational vehicles that are heading through the resort towns to the mountainous recreation areas, and addressed the regular occurrence of bottlenecking which plagued the former bridge. It also allowed for better traffic flow of large trucks traveling the highway carrying resources, materials, and supplies on a daily basis to support the resort and recreational activities.

ITD also won a President’s Award in the Planning category for replacing 17 bridges under one contract, saving $1.7 million and about 17 years. The single contract enabled the collection of engineering data on all the bridges at once rather than separately. Jointly collecting the data on bridge alignment, subsurface stability, right-of-way footprint, and hydraulic property saved about $100,000 per bridge compared to a bridge-by-bridge method.

The 17 bridges are located in ITD districts 4, 5, and 6 — in eastern, south-central, and southeast Idaho. The three districts worked together to accomplish common objectives.

Even more savings occurred once construction began on these bridges, as the project bid came in about $3 million under estimates.

ITD has won 13 AASHTO President’s Awards in the nine years Ness has been at the helm of the organization.

ITD Gives Safety a New Look

Safety has a new look at the Idaho Transportation Department. Thursday morning employees across the state traded in their orange vests for high-visibility yellow vests.

The vests come as part of an effort across the department to focus on employee safety.

“I can’t emphasize just how significant this change is as far as prioritizing the safety of our employees,” said ITD Chief Operations Officer Travis McGrath.

Watch this video of the shift to yellow.

The new vests were designed and developed by a team of employee representing different disciplines from across the state.

The most notable change to the vests is the yellow color to help drivers recognize highway workers among the orange traffic control devices. The vests also have a retro-reflective X on the back to signify to motorists the worker’s back is turned. Employee feedback during design also helped with some functional aspects like snap buttons, pockets big enough for a tablet, a rear storage pocket, and a strap for radio microphones.

“I’ve been with ITD for a long time, and this is by far the biggest change I’ve seen in regard to our safety. I’m so glad we’re making this commitment to our employees,” said ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes.

Focus on highway safety earns Stokes AAMVA Lifetime Achievement Award

 

ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes has spent his entire career advocating for highway safety issues, and that focus earned him the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

Watch video tribute to Scott.

AAMVA presented the award to Stokes during their annual conference, Aug. 23 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Stokes began with ITD in December of 1991 as a staff engineer in the bridge section at ITD headquarters, after some time spent in the private sector. He then began a rapid ascent. In 1993, he moved north to become a project development engineer in Coeur d’Alene. Eighteen months later, he returned to Boise to become the state bridge engineer. Then, in 1996, he accepted the position of District 1 Engineer, and moved back to Coeur d’Alene.

“Every day in homes across Idaho, families and friends of vehicle accident victims bear the anguish and grief of needless loss of life. Through his tireless efforts and lifetime commitment to highway safety, Scott is helping Idaho reduce and hopefully end this senseless tragedy,” DMV Manager Alberto Gonzalez wrote in his letter nominating Scott.

During his 25-year career at the department, Scott witnessed how engineering decisions, operational procedures and media campaigns impact highway safety, Alberto continued.

In February 2007, Stokes transferred from his job as District 1 Engineer to a new job as Deputy Director at headquarters. He stepped up to serve as interim Director from July 2009 to January 2010.

His passion is linking how engineering and operating decisions influence driver behavior and how driver behavior should influence engineering and operations.

Through these positions and his passion for safety, Stokes led the effort to make improving highway safety the top priority for all employees.

1 in 300,000 — ITD beats odds to benefit citizen access

BOISE – ITD’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) group recently earned the Special Achievement in GIS, or SAG Award, on July 11 at the annual Esri User Conference in San Diego. Esri is the global market leader in GIS software, and selected ITD from more than 300,000 eligible organizations worldwide to receive the award for innovative application of mapping, data analytics, and thought leadership in the field of transportation.

This work benefits the department, but also is a step toward greater access to road data for the public.

This roadway location intelligence will be available to local government entities and highway districts to provide accurate disbursement of federal highway dollars,” ITD Senior Service Delivery Manager Jeff Carpenter explained. “This data will be available to the public for use in urban planning, environmental impact analysis, disaster management, natural resource management and health-care planning. GIS location intelligence can help in many aspects of community development and planning.”

And here is the interesting part about this award:

ITD did not apply for it. The agency was selected, unsolicited.

Esri looked at the work ITD is doing, then sent it to a group of peers for review, and they nominated the department for the award. Linear Referencing expert Amit Hazra said that ITD has the best road-network data that he has worked with in doing roads and highways implementation projects.

The award selection was cemented by the high quality of ITD’s road network, specifically the road data for each ITD district.

ITD’s system provides quicker access to data, which can then be used to make data-driven decisions about planning, project funding, or asset management.

There were 134 countries represented in San Diego, and 21,000 people on hand.

“There was a single example of excellence used in the transportation category, and it was Idaho,” Carpenter said.

Back Row: Sydney Lewis, Brian Ness, Will Thoman, Jeff Carpenter
Front Row: David Fulton, Nicole Hanson, Wendy Bates, Tyler Jackson
Not Pictured: Michael Miller, Brian Smith

 

 

ITD districts collaborate on bridge projects to save taxpayers nearly $5 million

 

RIGBY – A unique Idaho Transportation Department collaboration within Districts 4, 5 and 6 — the south-central, southeastern and eastern idaho regions of the state — allowed those groups to come together and identify 17 bridges in dire need of replacement.

The team created one project that combined all 17, saving more than $3 million in construction, plus an estimated $100,000 per bridge ($1.7 million) during the design phase — a grand total of $4.7 million.

“When estimated, ITD had budgeted $27 million for this unique project,” said District 6’s Josh Sprague, who identified the savings as the former D6 Innovation Steward. “Once our budget was set, the bid opened at just $24 million.”

This allowed ITD to save money while increasing mobility and economic opportunity.

“The incredible savings are associated with grouping projects across district lines and working together,” said Sprague.

They also were successful in finishing the data collection and concept designs necessary for these 17 bridges at a fraction of the cost of doing each individually.

“Combining the 17 projects into one saves a significant amount of money for taxpayers, but the biggest benefit is time,” said D6 District Engineer Jason Minzghor. “This accelerates the whole process, so we can make needed repairs more quickly for the users of the highway system.”

Each of the bridges had reached their 50-year life span, so they all were in need of replacement. Each bridge will be brought up to current design standards; being wider to accommodate wider shoulders or future widenings, and in most cases longer, to better accommodate ever-changing waterways. As a result of the future shoulder widenings, ITD also will be minimizing the amount of guardrail needed.

By constructing 17 bridges under one contract, long-term impacts to the traveling public are minimized by:

– Grouping together similar bridges in similar areas
– Using concrete barrier for the safety of drivers and construction personnel
– Traffic drives on a paved surface at all times
– One lane is required to be open at all times

#catchKenny and his crew inspecting bridges across the state

With more than 4,200 bridges to inspect around the state, various crews with the Idaho Transportation Department are responsible for the safety of several structures, but this year, they will have another teammate to rely on: Kenny.

Who is Kenny?

Kenny is the department’s newest under-bridge inspection truck, or UBIT. This Kenworth A-62 truck has an arm with a bucket that can extend 62 feet under, around and in the substructure of bridges. Equipment with greater reach, like Kenny, allows inspectors to examine every inch of a bridge’s underside for signs of stress, and recommend maintenance work based on what their inspection finds.

Since the department put him into service this January, Kenny has been hard at work. He and his team are expected to complete more than 100 bridge inspections this year alone, and as such, Kenny will be making tracks around the state.

To showcase employees’ efforts as they work tirelessly with the state’s most vulnerable infrastructure, ITD encourages social-media followers to #catchKenny out on the road.

If you come across an inspection, you can participate in the fun by pulling to the side, coming to a stop and safely snapping a photo and uploading it to social media using the hashtag to let ITD know.

Whether or not you #catchKenny this summer, cross those rivers, lakes and train tracks with peace of mind, knowing that your transportation department is constantly working to keep you moving safely on the road.