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.

ITD work zone, road clearing efforts win community service awards

ITD’s work zone safety and winter road maintenance efforts recently won in the Leadership in Community Service categories of the Communitas Awards, which recognizes excellence in Community Service and Social Responsibility.

“Making Work Zones Safer” won on March 23 in the Leadership in Community Service category, and “Winter Road Maintenance Customer Service to Idaho Road Users” won in a category called Leadership in Community Service and Corporate Social Responsibility. This is an international competition, and ITD won in categories that also featured such massive companies as Toyota, MasterCard, Dow Chemical, and Honeywell.

“We started this program to highlight the community involvement of great companies and individuals who were sharing their skills and resources with their communities,” explained Mardelle Riley of the Association of Marketing & Communications Professionals (the umbrella group guiding the Communitas Awards).

“Our judges found that your nominee clearly exhibits the spirit of communitas, a Latin word that means people coming together for the good of a community. Communitas winners are recognized for specific programs involving volunteerism, philanthropy and ethical, sustainable business practices.”

The Winter Road Maintenance entry focused on the above-and-beyond efforts of hundreds of workers across the state dedicated to keeping the state’s roads and bridges clear and open. The department’s Work Zone efforts positively impact Gem State drivers and the many ITD employees working on roadsides statewide.

“We are proud of ITD employees for winning this international recognition in the middle of our busiest winter storms season in years,” said ITD Chief Deputy and Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney.  “Their outstanding customer-focused efforts keep our highways and work zones safe for drivers, project contractors and our own dedicated highway workers. This is truly a confirmation of the incredible services they provide daily for Idaho communities statewide.”

ITD tracked 4,572 storm events last year, but have already seen 6,773 storms this year, and this number will continue to climb over the next month or so. The numbers demonstrate that this winter has been more intense than recent years. However, the Mobility Score, which indicates the percentage of time during winter storms that the state’s roads are clear and passable, remains steady at 75% despite the more challenging winter.

ITD Highlights the Trailblazing Women in Construction

This week is Women in Construction Week, which celebrates the vital role women play in the construction industry.

Throughout the week, ITD will highlight several employees who strengthen and amplify the success of women in the construction industry on our social media pages.

We asked several employees to answer questions and give advice to young women entering the field.

Carrie Ann: Technical Engineer Services Leader

How did you get started in the construction/transportation industry?
I grew up just outside of Milwaukee. There was ALWAYS new construction going on and it was a thing between me and my dad as we’d be driving, “Whoa, check that out on your right!  Look at the size of that crane!”  There was always something new to gawk at.  “What do you think they’re doing there with that “tic-tac-toe” looking thing?”, which ended up being geogrid.  When we’d travel, we’d notice different things like the wildlife overpass crossings in Canada or the overpass restaurants over the interstate in Illinois. We even traveled down to Chicago once to watch a building implosion on a Saturday morning.

What do you like most about being in the construction/transportation industry?
I like the transformation of things. You can literally move mountains.  It’s so amazing seeing some of these projects once they’re complete and it’s amazing to be a part of that.

What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?
Have confidence in yourself. Unfortunately, you may have to prove yourself at times more than a man would, but accept the challenge, show that you know your stuff, and don’t give up. I think things are getting better, but unfortunately some prejudice still does exist.

Jessika: Workforce Development Manager

How did you get started in the construction/transportation industry?
I started on a highway construction crew as an Engineer Technician I with Nevada Department of Transportation

What do you like most about being in the construction/transportation industry?
I love that I am a part of improving people’s lives every day.

What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?
No job is a ‘man’s job’.







Megan: Design Construct Residency A

How did you get started in the construction/transportation industry?
It was a bit of an accident – I have a degree in mechanical engineering, but jobs in mechanical engineering are few and far between unless you want to live in a big city, which I didn’t. While looking for local jobs I came across one at ITD and decided to see what it was like. I decided I liked the people and environment, ITD decided to take a chance on me, and the rest is history.

What do you like most about being in the construction/transportation industry?
Being able to have a positive impact on the community. I’m still blown away by the fact that the projects I work on will have impacts that last for decades.

What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?
There is so much information to learn and so many things to keep track of when working in transportation. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, but just remember to take a deep breath and to ask for help when you need it.

Taylor: Grants & Contracts Officer

How did you get started in the construction/transportation industry?
I first started in the transportation industry as a temporary employee in the Division of Motor Vehicles at the Idaho Transportation Department. I sought out this opportunity after meeting previous ITD employees through a 1 credit weekend workshop class at Boise State University. After graduating and working as a temp for 2 months, I received a full-time position and have worked my way up in the department since.

What do you like most about being in the construction/transportation industry?
I really enjoy working in the transportation industry because every day is different. The logistics of moving people, products, etc. is never boring or underwhelming and no two days are the same. New challenges present themselves regularly and individuals in the transportation/ construction industry work together to collaborate and innovate on solutions.

What advice do you have for young women entering the industry?
Lean into learning as much as you can and try to look at every new challenge as an opportunity for growth and development. Come in confident, with a positive attitude and be willing to learn. Everything else will fall into place as it is meant to.


Photo of the first female foreman at ITD
Photo of the first female foreman at ITD, Shannon Thornton.

We also want to highlight Shannon Thornton (above) who will retire on March 15 after about 28 years on the job in North Idaho. She is the only female maintenance foreman currently at ITD, and is believed to be the only one in agency history.

Thank you to all ITD employees who strengthen and amplify the success of women in the construction industry!

Follow this campaign on our Instagram and Facebook throughout the week.

First female maintenance foreman in the state set to retire

Photo of the first female foreman at ITD

Shannon Thornton will retire March 15 after about 28 years on the job in North Idaho. She is the only female maintenance foreman currently at ITD, and after HR reviewed records, she’s believed to be the only one in agency history.

She started as an hourly in the Sandpoint residency in 1994 and transitioned to maintenance in the Coeur d’Alene area within a few years. For nearly the last two decades, she has served as foreman in the Sandpoint area and then the Athol area.

“She always found a way to say ‘yes’ to anything that was asked of her,” said Dave Freeman, who works for her at the Athol shed. “And when she commits, she leads like nobody else does, but at the same time with a lot of heart and kindness.”

Freeman shared several stories and remarked on her ability to network and obtain resources for her crews. Through her leadership and relationships across the state she has initiated and overseen the construction of maintenance facilities all over the district.

D6 District Engineer Jason Minzghor served as the operations engineer while Thornton was in Sandpoint.

“She took on every challenge I gave her,” Minzghor said. “State Highway 200 was cleared of trees and brush through most of the corridor because she was so motivated. She did more in one summer clearing trees than prior foremen had in the past 20 years. I counted on Shannon to get things done.”

Her crew members and the larger emergency response community have relied on her expertise and leadership over the years. In an emergency, Thornton was the first to offer assistance wherever it was needed.

“She believed it was the right thing to do because it’s where we all live, and it’s our community too,” Freeman said.

When Thornton looks back on her career, her favorite memories are of projects that her crew was able to take on and accomplish, from ditching to restoring gabion baskets to replacing culverts.

“I have had the opportunity to work with people that are truly dedicated and are truly here to serve our customers,” Thornton said. “I have appreciated my time in maintenance and those people who have always been helpful.”

Last month she spoke to the Women in Transportation group at ITD and shared insights about serving as a woman in operations, as well as advice on servant leadership.

“Never forget as foreman you are there to get what the crew needs to accomplish their job as safely and efficiently as possible. The crew comes first,” Thornton said.

Top-ranked College of Idaho Coyotes help shape Highway Safety effort

It’s been a great season for the College of Idaho men’s basketball team. After losing by four points in their season opener, the Yotes have put together a 30-game winning streak, they’ve won the Cascade Collegiate Conference regular season and tournament titles, and they’ve spent the last few weeks on top of the national polls. At 30-1, they host the first and second rounds of the NAIA Tournament March 6-7 in Caldwell, Idaho and have already secured a berth in the NAIA National Championship tournament beginning March 13 in Kansas City, Missouri.

In mid-February, Coach Colby Blaine sat down with members of ITD’s highway safety staff and law enforcement partners to talk about leadership and his team’s success. He provided a lot of great comments and insights, but one comment really stood out. He said once the team establishes its goals for the year, he asks “who do you have to become to get there?”

Our goal is zero fatalities on Idaho roads – who do we have to become to get there?

Shift began as a research project to reduce distracted-driving crashes in Idaho. As we worked on this project, we realized simply telling people to put away their phones was not enough. We had to show a better way – we had to show who we have to become to prevent these crashes.

We shifted the conversation to focus on what we are doing right and why that is important. That is where the idea of engaged driving was born. If we want to prevent distracted driving, we have to drive in the moment and free from distractions – we have to become engaged drivers.

We decided to create messages that are authentic and relatable and show the behaviors and outcomes we want to see on our roads. It was a bit of a departure from what we are used to seeing. There are no drivers with their phones in hand getting into crashes. Instead we chose to show who we can become when we shift our behavior, thinking and focus.

Knowing what our goal is and who we need to become to get there is important, but so is commitment to the process. Much like a basketball season, we may with new challenges and unforeseen circumstances but if we learn one thing from Coach Blaine and the Yotes, it’s that working as a team, we can accomplish great things.

Michael Johnson named new Idaho State Bridge Engineer

Longtime ITD Bridge employee Michael Johnson was named as the new State Bridge Engineer effective Christmas Day 2022. He replaces Matt Farrar in the position, who retired in October after 25 years in the job and 36 years overall at the department.

Johnson most recently served as a Design Group Leader in the Bridge Section.  He graduated from Idaho State University in 1991, then began accumulating over 30 years of bridge-design experience. He started his career in ITD’s Engineer-in-Training program, before joining the Bridge Section in April 1992.  As an EIT, Johnson spent two years in District 3, six months in HQ Materials, and the remaining time in the Bridge Section.

Johnson then took a hiatus from ITD to lead a bridge section for a consulting firm (HDR) from 2003 until July 2018.  He returned to ITD a month later to get more opportunities to design bridges in Idaho and spend more time with his wife, Kim.

“I needed a better work/life balance,” Johnson explained.

He and Kim have two grown sons — Zak (an engineer for ITD in District 5) and Parker. In addition to working as an engineer, he served 12 years in the U.S. Army reserves (1990-2002), rising to the rank of Captain, and has coached high school football for the last 13 years.  He has been coaching football at Nampa Christian High School since 2010, and is currently the varsity Special Teams Coordinator, Receivers Coach, and assistant the Offensive Coach.

“With my new position, I may need to give up some of those duties, but I am fortunate to be able to continue coaching,” Johnson explained.

Mike’s hobbies include mountain biking, running, coaching, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his family.

Johnson answered a few questions for this article:

Q: What are the goals and challenges you anticipate for this new position?
A: Goals:

“The ITD Bridge Section Staff is excellent, and I am honored to be a part of this team.  I want to give the staff the opportunity to work on the projects that interest them. We have some exciting project opportunities coming up in the next few years, including the Rainbow Bridge replacement. Giving our section the opportunity to work on this project and other high profile projects is exciting to me.

I also want to continue to integrate the Bridge Design with the Bridge Asset Management Section. In the past, these sections have worked mostly independently, even though these sections are both in Bridge. Over the past few years, we have been cross training staff to give the staff well rounded experience. Load-rating staff has been given the opportunity to design bridge projects, and design staff has been helping with load ratings. I want to get to the point where staff can seamlessly help the other group if there is a need.

Matt was well-known in the national bridge community — I want to continue ITD’s presence. I have been fortunate to gain important contacts with some of the leaders in the bridge industry through my work on a AASHTOWare Task Force and working with AASHTO Committee of Bridges and Structures.  I want to continue to participate on the national level, as well as giving other ITD Bridge staff the same opportunities to work on national committees.”

“I have big shoes to fill. Matt Farrar has been the State Bridge Engineer for over 25 years.  His experience will be missed. He was well-known throughout the state and national bridge engineering community.  Changing the face of ITD Bridge Section from Matt Farrar to Mike Johnson may take time.”

Johnson said the opportunity to help shape a new ITD Bridge section drove him to apply for the job.

Q: What made you want to tackle this new job?
A: “I enjoy mentoring younger staff. As the State Bridge Engineer, I will be in a position to provide mentorship to young engineers and technicians, and provide opportunities and resources for them to grow and succeed.

Also, this position gives me the opportunity to influence the direction of the bridge industry in Idaho and nationwide.“

ITD Chief Highway Engineer Blake Rindlisbacher, who will supervise Johnson’s new position, is also excited about the announcement.

“I’m excited to welcome Mike to his new role as State Bridge Engineer. Mike started his career with ITD over 30 years ago, when he was a part of ITD’s Engineer in Training program alongside (Division of Highways Construction & Operations Administrator) Dave Kuisti and I.  He then worked as a consulting engineer for a number of years before returning to ITD.  We are fortunate to have Mike on our team, and I’m confident that Idaho will continue to deliver a high quality bridge program under his leadership.”

Idaho Serves Military Veterans Through CDL Waiver

The Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is working to bring more veterans and military members into the commercial trucking industry. Idaho offers two forms of commercial driver’s license (CDL) testing waivers for people with experience driving commercial vehicles in the military.

In the past, applicants needed to print and fill out the forms by hand. In late 2021, DMV team members Heather Perkins, John Barsness, and Caleb Forrey decided to transition to fillable forms to improve customer service. The fillable forms are easier on the applicant and faster to review because the fields are typed rather than handwritten.

Now in 2023, with streamlined forms, the DMV has launched new ways to spread the word about the program. The DMV is promoting military CDL waivers with social-media posts and a new poster that will be distributed to county DMV offices, ports of entry, and military and national guard bases.

Gov. Little’s transportation priorities in State of the State address

Governor Brad Little gave his State of the State address Monday (Jan. 9, 2023), presenting his proposed budget, which includes a transportation focus on Making Generational Investments in Critical Infrastructure.

Link to entire State of the State address

In recent years, Governor Little and the Idaho Legislature have championed investments in critical infrastructure without raising taxes or fees. Efforts have focused on bonding for new road capacity and addressing the deferred maintenance backlog facing state and local roads. The Governor’s budget builds off these previous investments, and:

  • Invests $96.8 million to fully fund the known ongoing transportation safety and capacity gap. This will make Idaho roads safer for drivers with capacity enhancements and safety features like widened and realigned roadways and turn lanes.
  • Adds $200 million as the second tranche of an effort to improve local system bridges, $35 million to improve airports throughout the state, and $10 million for pedestrian and safety projects. This investment will improve approximately one-third of deficient local bridges to improve safety for all Idahoans.
  • Reserves $100 million for economically significant local transportation projects that are beyond the reach of local government finances.
  • Pays off all callable debt in the GARVEE transportation bond program for the 2014 bond series ($37.5 million), averting interest and freeing up additional ongoing transportation funding.


Terry Jacobsen retires after record-breaking 64 years of Idaho state service

District 5’s Carl “Terry” Jacobsen retired Nov. 16. 2022 after a record-breaking 64 years of service to the State of Idaho, all of it in Southeast Idaho and almost all of it in the D5 Lab. The lab was renamed in his honor several years ago when he hit the 60-year milestone, at which point he was already the all-time record-holder for years of public service in Idaho.

Then-Governor Butch Otter proclaimed it  “Terry Jacobsen Day” throughout the state to mark the occasion in July 2018.

Most folks retire after 30 years or so of service. By that measure, Terry could have capped his career in the late 80’s, before the internet or cell phones even existed beyond the idea stage for some future billionaires working in their garage or dorm room.

Instead, he added another 30 years to his career!

Jacobsen actually started in April of 1958, but the clock didn’t officially start ticking until that summer. His first job was on Interstate 15 between Chubbuck Road and Fort Hall in the late 1950’s when the interstate was first being constructed. He joined the D5 Lab in 1984 and spent almost 40 years there.

Terry’s accomplishment is amazing, and we have been privileged to watch an incredible demonstration of service and loyalty.

“Terry has been a stalwart at ITD,” said D5 District Engineer Todd Hubbard. “He has seen a lot of things happen since he started with the department in April of 1958. He helped build the Interstate. Anybody that knew Terry knew that he was committed to his job. After 64 years and almost 134,000 hours of service, we say ‘thank you, Terry for a job well done!'”

Longtime public servant Dwight Horsch steps away from Idaho Transportation Board

Dwight Horsch, who came to the Idaho Transportation Board in June 2011 and continued his service to the public for more than a decade, attended his final meeting as District 5’s representative to the board on Dec. 15, 2022.

Pictured above, from left to right: Chief Deputy/Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney, D4 District Engineer Jesse Barrus, D3 District Engineer Caleb Lakey, D5 District Engineer Todd Hubbard, Horsch, ITD Director Scott Stokes, and State Highway Engineer Blake Rindlisbacher celebrate Dwight’s 12 years of service on the Idaho Transportation Board.

“I want to sincerely thank Dwight for his years of dedicated service to the citizens of Idaho,” said Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Bill Moad. “It has been a privilege to work with him — his service, especially to those in southeastern Idaho where he has been representative this past decade, has been exemplary.”

Horsch helped mentor Moad when he first became chairman of the transportation board several years ago. “He reminded me that the small rural communities are equally as important as the metropolitan areas. The key is balancing the needs of the entire state to best serve all the citizens.”

When Horsch was appointed to the board (succeeding Neil Miller) in June 2011 by former Gov. Otter and confirmed by the Senate, his background included three terms in the House and a term in the Senate in his career with the Idaho Legislature. When those eight years finished, he returned to eastern Idaho and to farming.

As a lifelong farmer, Horsch understands the vital role transportation plays in Idaho’s economy. Without a good highway system, moving agricultural products to market would be severely impacted. Beyond the farm-to-market dynamic, transportation plays such a central role in everyday life that it is difficult to overestimate its importance. Whether its going to the store, to school, to work, or to recreate, roads and bridges are integral to the entire process. The transportation system is multi-modal as well, with freight and aviation interests also serving as part of the conversation.

Horsch is a veteran of the Idaho Air National Guard, attended the University of Idaho and later earned his degree in agribusiness from Kansas State University.

Horsch looks fondly on his dozen years on the board:


  • I was fortunate to work with board members and ITD staff who are some of the brightest, most dedicated, energetic, creative minds in our state and in the nation.
  • When I first got on the board, the credibility level of the department was quite low with the Governor, legislature and the public in general. In my two terms, I witnessed a great reversal of that situation.
  • Due to this positive change, ITD received some terrific support and funding. Now some projects are being designed, bid and built that were pipe dreams 12 years ago.


  • When I was appointed by Governor Otter, he asked me to do what I could, working with fellow board members and leadership staff, to change the department’s image.  Whatever part I played in that effort, it was wonderful to see it happen.
  • I honestly felt, during my legislative career and as an Idaho Transportation Board member, that one of the most conservative actions we could do was to build and maintain a very good transportation infrastructure. With the support of the legislature and both governors Otter and Little, that’s what’s happening. Not all of my wishes for the system are complete, but a great start is underway.
  • It was a great pleasure, as chairman of the subcommittee, to see the establishment of 129,000-pound truckload routes throughout Idaho.  It took time and a great deal of input from road industry representatives, but we got it done, to the benefit of all.

To My Replacement

  • I am confident that my replacement will quickly realize they can trust the wisdom of fellow board members and staff leadership.
  • Take time to learn all the systems before diving in too deep. There is so much to learn.  Orientation is helpful, but the entire department makeup is so all-encompassing that it takes time to let it all soak in.  Even in my last year, I found myself having to rely upon others to help me understand the complexities and attain faith in some issues.

And Now For Some Fun

  • Kathy and I have rented out most of our farmland. I have retained some to keep my hand in the profession I have loved and to stay active. We are already making plans for traveling, camping and fishing. Our daughters, Holly and Tiffany, became the competent adults they are in part from growing up as farm kids, but they have found their own paths away from agriculture. My wife and I are confident that our tenants will continue to farm the land with the skill and devotion we have for the last half-century. Horsch Farms will live on. (Note: the farm is going into its 114th year, having started in 1909 by Dwight’s grandfather when he came from Germany and settled near Aberdeen, Idaho.)

What I Will Miss

  • I will fondly remember the great people I have been fortunate to meet and interact with during my tenure. Their intelligence, dedication and camaraderie will stay with me always.  They have become some of my closest friends, and I will miss being with them on a regular basis. I count my time on the board as one of the blessings of my life.