Monet flutters record 662 miles from Idaho to California

A monarch butterfly named Monet, reared by Melinda Lowe of ITD’s Environmental Section, recently made history by completing a flight from Lowe’s Treasure Valley home to a swimming pool in California.

The monarch (Danaus plexippus) set out from Boise on Sept. 4, 2017, and was rescued from the pool March 2, 2018.

Biologists studying the movements of the declining species tracked the monarch by the research tag placed on her wing (see photo below). It is the first documented case of a monarch, tagged as part of Washington State University’s program, to make the journey from Idaho to California.

The monarch was reared in Idaho by Lowe, who brought her home in early August 2017. Lowe had a butterfly cage specially built for her, where Monet grew fat and happy. eating freshly picked showy milkweed leaves (see photo at right).

After a month, Monet emerged from her chrysalis and became a California-bound butterfly that Lowe released that evening, just four hours later.

“She immediately flew up and out of the yard and toward the west. “I flapped my hand waving goodbye. Such a bittersweet moment,” Lowe said.

The butterfly, officially named B1861, flew approximately 662 miles southwest and into southern California before settling in the greater Santa Barbara area.

“This is big news. Monet is the first Idaho monarch in my study to be recovered in California, and at six months of age, she is the longest-lived monarch documented in this Washington State University tagging effort,” said Dr. David James, an associate professor at WSU specializing in invertebrate conservation. “Monet will go down in Idaho monarch history, that’s for sure.”

The California homeowner found the butterfly a few hundred yards from a known overwintering site where the female butterfly likely spent the winter. After fishing her from the pool, the homeowner released the butterfly, which apparently was fine after the near-death experience. The homeowner then contacted Dr. James, who in turn contacted Lowe.

“Hopefully, she is now heading inland from Goleta, California, with dry wings seeking milkweed to lay her eggs,” said Dr. James.

The monarch butterfly is a national priority species for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Community-based projects in Idaho’s Treasure Valley and throughout the country are helping to enhance and restore habitat to benefit the monarch. This beautiful orange and black species is known for migration between its over-wintering grounds in central Mexico and California, to its spring and summer breeding grounds in the northern and interior portions of the United States and Canada. This butterfly requires milkweed plants to reproduce, and female monarchs will only lay eggs on milkweeds. Native milkweeds are the primary food sources for monarch caterpillars.

Monarch butterflies and other pollinators are in trouble. The decline of these species may be attributed to habitat fragmentation, urban and agricultural development, pesticide use and lack of nectar plants for food. In the case of the migratory monarch, the lack of native milkweed is believed to be a critical limiting factor.

Learn more about our efforts to save the monarch at https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/

ITD’s Buehrig building Bridges to Prosperity  

Opportunities like the one in front of ITD’s Alan Buehrig are few and far between.

Buehrig, an ITD Bridge Engineer for the last two years, is leaving March 16 to travel to Panama for two weeks to participate in the Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) program.

Alan (pictured above at left) will be the Safety Officer on the project. A group of about 10 people from other departments of transportation, and representing private-engineering firms, contractors, and fabricators, also are going.

Buehrig’s group will construct a steel suspension bridge — the 100-foot span will connect a portion of the community to the outside roadway. The bridge will provide safe pedestrian access across the Rio Tuancle (from one side of the community to the other) year-round, especially important during the rainy season when the river swells dramatically.
Building the bridges over impassable rivers in isolated communities creates access for residents to school, markets, health clinics, and greater economic opportunity.

B2P’s founder, Ken Frantz, started the nonprofit organization in 2001 after seeing a photo in National Geographic of folks in war-torn Ethiopia struggling to get access to needed services by crossing the Blue Nile River.

See link for history of B2P: https://www.bridgestoprosperity.org/who-we-are

“This is a unique opportunity to contribute to B2P’s extraordinary mission,” Buehrig said.  “I chose to become a civil engineer out of a desire to build meaningful infrastructure that directly improves people’s lives, and this definitely fits those goals.

“I also hope to broaden my knowledge of other cultures and to become a better engineer through working side by side with others across the bridge industry.”

The bridge is being built in El Macho, a small spread-out village of some 300 people located about 320 kilometers west of Panama City.

B2P is already on site, working with the local community to build the foundations. A few community volunteers are already working on it. It is B2P’s goal is to complete these projects in collaboration with the local communities.

In 2017, the NSBA (National Steel Bridge Alliance) gave a presentation to the ITD Bridge section about the program, and encouraged interested volunteers to reach out to NSBA.

Buehrig was intrigued.

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Buehrig’s Bridges to Prosperity trip delayed

On the eve of his trip to Panama with the Bridges to Prosperity program, Buehrig had his plan scuttled due to unforeseen emergent circumstances.

Paving awards are big win for north Idaho projects and drivers

COEUR D’ALENE – Three north Idaho projects received recognition from the National Asphalt and Paving Association just before Christmas for high-quality paving, signifying a big win for the Idaho Transportation Department, the contractor (Poe Asphalt Paving Inc.), and most importantly, the region’s drivers.

Paving for the second stage of US-95 near Sheep Creek, US-95 near Cougar Creek, and (pictured above) Sherman Avenue to Blue Creek Bay Bridge on Interstate 90 earned Quality in Construction awards.

“Our project managers and materials engineers work with contractors to ensure that the public receives a high-quality product,” said Marvin Fenn, an ITD engineering manager in north Idaho.

Awards were based on asphalt samples submitted to the National Center for Asphalt Technology in Alabama and reviewed for deviations and for consistency.

“Collaborating with ITD engineers is always a positive experience,” said Brian Poe, a project manager for Poe Asphalt and Paving in Post Falls. “It is great to work with a team that wants to deliver the best projects for the traveling public.”

$500k available from Idaho ADA curb ramp program in $60k grants

 

Individual grants of up to $60,000 are available to Idaho organizations statewide through a competitive application process ending March 2 for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Curb Ramp Program. In total, the Idaho Transportation Department will allocate $500,000 of state funds for this program.

Local jurisdictions (cities, counties and highway districts) and tribal governments are eligible to apply. Applications are available on the Idaho Transportation Department website at http://itd.idaho.gov/alt-programs/, under the ADA Curb Ramp Program tab on the left-hand side of the page.

The goal of the program is to partner with local agencies to provide accessible facilities for all pedestrians, especially those with disabilities.

Those applying in 2018 should be prepared to begin construction in May 2019.  Project construction must be completed within two years of the execution of the Cooperative Agreement.

The Idaho ADA Curb Ramp Program is a state-administered program providing funding for projects to build or correct curb ramps on the state highway system.

Applications are evaluated by ITD, the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council and the Idaho Division of the Federal Highway Administration.

Completed applications should be sent to ITDAltContracting@itd.idaho.gov

Top 2017 innovations feature safety, cost savings and more

The Idaho Transportation Department’s ongoing innovation initiative, now in its fourth year, has already shown some impressive results. The program has so far saved Idaho taxpayers $5.1 million in efficiencies that are applied directly back into maintenance and repair of the state’s roads and bridges. Along the way, the innovations have improved customer service, enhanced mobility, and directly impacted safety for highway workers and the traveling public.

ITD’s emphasis on innovation features a statewide employee-driven effort with a premium on finding safer, easier and less expensive solutions. The 2017 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 so exciting to celebrate every employee’s efforts to make things just a little bit safer or better in some way,” said ITD Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “Recognizing the spirit of innovation in every employee is what Innovate ITD! is about.

Since the program began in 2014, ITD has:

• Received 1,120 ideas from employees
• Implemented 760 innovations
• Generated savings and efficiency improvements of $5.1 million*
• Realized 170,000 contractor and employee hours saved
• Created 420 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 2017 – Watch the Best of the Best video:

SAFETY
For the safety category, ITD’s south-central Idaho office began by improving the nighttime visibility of delineator posts. Safety can be dicey on Idaho’s many rural roads.

On tight turns, you might see a series of yellow signs with black chevrons warning drivers, or a row of standard markers or reflectors showing a hazard ahead. In some locations, that’s not always enough.

D4’s James Bennett created a low-cost option to assist drivers in recognizing the change in direction of travel. A series of these posts can be installed within a couple hours.

Watch curve delineation video

CUSTOMER SERVICE
In the Customer Service category, the winning idea uses 3D renderings to drive better public understanding.

ITD is using new technology to help the public and stakeholders better grasp complex bridge replacements, visualize what ITD is trying to accomplish, and understand how the new bridges will fit into the town’s aesthetics or existing environment.

By using 3D bridge renderings and animations, ITD is better able to communicate project complexities and alleviate frustrations. This has been very popular and proven extremely beneficial on several high-profile projects where the 3D renderings and animations were fundamental to understanding project goals and outcomes.

Having a 3D visual makes it come to life for people, and helps reduce controversy by clearing up misunderstandings.

ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
The winner is an idea to provide alternatives to load-posting bridges.

An innovation developed by ITD Bridge Asset Management provides local bridge owners with options when faced with deterioration, so a particular bridge can remain open and unrestricted to legal vehicle loads, rather than simply giving load-posting requirements.

The goal is to keep local bridges open and unrestricted to vehicle traffic, which supports ITD’s mission. It improves the lives of Idaho citizens by safely ensuring mobility is uninterrupted and business can transport goods and services in less time.

COST SAVINGS
Mechanic Brandon Thurber and colleagues in ITD’s D6 shop lamented that aluminum valves, floor plates, and mounting covers on truck frames were replaced twice a year because of salt corrosion. So, they began investigating ways to preserve shed trucks.

One day they discovered that spraying the components with varnish preserved the metal, reducing corrosion and replacement costs.

Total annual replacement cost for the rusted-out components was about $48,000 — $800 for each of the district’s 60 trucks. By using the varnish, that cost can be cut by $40,000 per year.

MOBILITY
In this category, the 2017 winner was magnetic.

A simple idea out of the south-central Idaho office could help prevent flat tires with a giant magnetic sweeper bar mounted to a patrol vehicle. Best of all, the innovation will help both the general driving public AND department employees.

D.J. Price of D4 got the idea when looking at the punctured casings of several blown tires about 100 yards away from a mess of nails on the road.

ITD trucks were a logical choice – they are already out on the road.

TIME SAVINGS
The 2017 winner is an innovation to streamline purchases.

Step into the typical ITD shed and you’ll find hundreds of tools, parts, and pieces of equipment. Staying on top of that list can be a logistical nightmare.

So, an ITD team worked on solutions to streamline the process. They created standardized digital forms with some auto-fill fields and drop-down menus to speed up the process. They also found it made sense to open up the approval process. Only orders more than $10,000 need to be approved by a supervisor.

With a new protocol in place and vending machines for supplies getting installed across the state, the solution is on track to save thousands of labor hours.

EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT
This year’s winner provides a career-development path for ITD maintenance workers.

Already seeing an influx of new Transportation Techs and anticipating even more in coming years, ITD’s eastern Idaho office developed a “TTO Boot Camp” to get new employees trained on the basic elements of the maintenance program and acclimated to a career at ITD. Having consistent training across each regional foreman area also gave these newcomers a kick start to their development and effectiveness. To ease the on-boarding process, the department also paired a mentor with the new employees.

ITD is providing a higher level of service to employees, and those skills can then be applied to service to the public on roadways.

Those are ITD’s 2017 Best of the Best winners, showcasing how innovative thinking can improve products and services and make the most of taxpayer funds.

District 6 celebrates US-20 improvements with $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) donated $10,000 to the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at a ceremony at the Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho October 10. The prize money came to ITD when the Thornton project won the America’s Transportation Awards public vote earlier this fall.

Pictured (L to R): Scott, Lina and Kim Robinson present the donation to Cystic Fibrosis Foundation representative Joe Wojciechowski. District Engineer Jason Minzghor (far right) served as event emcee.

Watch the video of the event.

Now 20, Lina Robinson (daughter of D6 Maintenance Foreman Scott Robinson) has suffered with Cystic Fibrosis since birth.

So far, there is no cure for the disease. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports a wide range of research that focuses on the hunt for a cure and improving the quality of life for patients. The disease afflicts roughly 70,000 people worldwide.

“With this donation, we are partnering with the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation,” said ITD District 6 Engineer Jason Minzghor. “ITD is pleased to be able to contribute and, in this small way, be of assistance to Lina and others who deal with the genetic disease.”

“The disease is a steady challenge,” Lina said. “I have learned to accept the treatment requirements. A number of medical advances over the years have improved my quality of life. The biggest challenge is trying to fit the treatments into my busy schedule.”
Lina Robinson

The Thornton Interchange on U.S. 20 south of Rexburg opened Nov. 18, 2016, marking completion of all the work needed to make the corridor a safe, modern highway. District 6 has completed 20 years of work along the 34-mile stretch of highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City, closing 18 at-grade (level) intersections and constructing seven full interchanges.

Despite traffic volumes more than doubling while the new interchanges were being built, the safety improvements decreased serious-injury crashes by 75% and reduced fatalities to less than one per year. Improvements furthered ITD’s mission of safety, mobility and economic opportunity for the traveling public, saving lives and reducing property damage.

Innovation in design and the safety that resulted from construction of the new interchange has been widely recognized, with the project winning three prestigious awards:

1. President’s Transportation Award for Highway Traffic Safety – American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

2. “People’s Choice” Award – America’s Transportation Awards.

3. Best Use of Technology and Innovation – Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO).

Idaho Transportation Department refinances GARVEE to save $13.1 million for taxpayers

BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will save approximately $13.1 million in interest costs on GARVEE highway bonds. ITD worked with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association to refinance $101 million of debt by reducing interest rates from 4.5% to 2.3% on those bonds.

This is the second refinancing of GARVEE bonds completed by ITD and IHFA as part of the continuing management of this program. The first, in 2015, resulted in $12.7 million in savings.

“Through GARVEE, we are investing wisely by spending the money now to solve the transportation problems of tomorrow. We are paying less than the anticipated cost of inflation for the same construction work in years to come,” said ITD Director Brian Ness. “The GARVEE program on the whole is another example of ITD being as efficient as possible by saving money, stretching resources, and reinvesting savings back into the maintenance of our roads and bridges.”

GARVEE bonds allow ITD to finance much-needed road and bridgework, with the promise to pay back the borrowed capital during the next 18 years.

“ITD continues to look for opportunities to take advantage of favorable market conditions and ensure that we are managing our finances wisely for the taxpayers of Idaho,” said department Chief Administrative Officer Charlene McArthur. “We apply those savings back to maintenance and improvement of our roads and bridges.”

GARVEE bonds have paid for approximately $857 million in road and bridge work in the last 10 years, including 119 miles of new roadway, 41 new or rebuilt bridges, and 14 new or rebuilt interchanges.

The Idaho Legislature approved an additional $300 million in GARVEE bonding authority during their last session, and the Idaho Transportation Board has already started to direct some of that funding toward needed projects in the Treasure Valley and in northern Idaho.

McArthur also credited ITD Controller Dave Tolman for his diligence in managing the financing transaction and work with external partners. “The ITD team will continue to monitor the market and work with our partners to identify future opportunities,” she said.

ITD donates $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

RIGBY – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) donated $10,000 to the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation on Tuesday (Oct. 10). The gift is ITD’s prize money from winning the America’s Transportation “People’s Choice” Award for the Thornton Interchange project.

The opening of the Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg last November culminated 20 years of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built along a 34-mile stretch of the highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City. The project and the overall U.S. 20 safety improvements have reduced serious-injury crashes by 75% and cut fatalities to less than one per year in that stretch of highway.

Cystic Fibrosis hits close to home for the eastern Idaho office of ITD known as District 6. Foreman Scott Robinson’s daughter, Lina, has suffered with it since birth. The disease is a progressive, genetic malady that causes persistent lung infections and eventually limits one’s ability to breathe.

(Picture of Lina Robinson)

Lina, 20, braves three different breathing treatments every day – each of which takes an hour. She takes special enzymes with every meal to help with digestion, consumes an array of vitamins and other supplements, and eats high-calorie meals and snacks. She regularly visits doctors, nurses, nutritionists, social workers, x-ray lab technicians, and pharmacists. Prescriptions cost $15,000 per month.

“The disease is a steady challenge,” she said, “I have learned to accept the treatment requirements. A number of medical advances over the years have improved my quality of life. The biggest challenge is trying to fit the treatments into my busy schedule.”

So far there is no cure for the disease. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports a wide range of research that focuses on the hunt for a cure and improving the quality of life for patients. The disease afflicts roughly 70,000 people worldwide.

One in 30 people are carriers of the recessive Cystic Fibrosis gene. If a man is a carrier and marries a woman who is a carrier, the couple has a 25% chance of having a child with Cystic Fibrosis.

“We are partnering with the Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by donating the prize money to them,” said ITD District 6 Engineer Jason Minzghor. “ITD is pleased to be able to contribute and, in this small way, be of assistance to Lina and others who deal with the genetic disease.”

“Last year, about 89 cents of each dollar of total foundation expenses was spent on research and medical, community and education programs,” said Ashley Barton, senior development director of the Utah and Idaho Chapter in Salt Lake City. The chapter is the nearest Cystic Fibrosis Foundation office in the region.

“We take pride in being an effective organization and are careful stewards of every dollar raised in support of our mission to further research and improve treatment,” Barton said.

Because Cystic Fibrosis is rare, the foundation doesn’t receive any federal funding, said chapter Executive Director Laura Hadley.

“Efforts of the chapter directly affect local Idaho communities and the patients cared for at the Cystic Fibrosis Care Center located at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise,” Hadley said. The care center at St. Luke’s is the only Cystic Fibrosis clinic in Idaho.

Lina typically visits the Cystic Fibrosis clinic for adults at the University of Utah Hospital. In her childhood, she visited the pediatric Cystic Fibrosis clinic at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.

The Utah and Idaho Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation works with the Cystic Fibrosis Care Center at St. Luke’s to ensure standardized, quality care.

DOUBLE DOWN ON THORNTON: Eastern Idaho project wins President’s and People’s Choice awards, plus $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis

The Idaho Transportation Department Thornton Interchange project won the America’s Transportation “People’s Choice” vote today, along with a President’s Award from a national transportation industry group.

The America’s Transportation Awards (ATA) and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) President’s Awards winners were announced today (Wednesday, Sept. 27) in Phoenix, Arizona.

The opening of the new Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg last November culminated 16 years of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built along a 34-mile stretch of the highway between Idaho Falls and Sugar City.

Watch the video of the Thornton project.

Despite traffic volumes doubling during that time, improvements reduced serious-injury crashes by 75% and cut fatalities to less than one per year.

This marks the fourth Idaho project to advance to the national People’s Choice stage of America’s Transportation Awards since 2013. None of the four has finished lower than third in the public voting, furthering ITD’s reputation as a national leader. It is also the 11th AASHTO President’s Award for ITD since Director Brian Ness arrived in 2010.

ATA awards are a joint effort of AASHTO, AAA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“The new Thornton Interchange greatly improves safety and mobility in Eastern Idaho and is saving lives,” said Ness. “This award shows ITD is now recognized nationally as an agency that finds better, more innovative ways to build projects that put the focus on serving the citizens.”

Completion of the Thornton Interchange removes dangerous at-grade intersections and makes the busy route a continuous four-lane divided highway from Idaho Falls to Sugar City.

“This honor and the national awards we have won are all employee driven. We empower our team to make decisions closer to where the work is being done and that has made us a more efficient and effective organization,” Ness added. “It’s this philosophy that is helping us to become the best transportation department in the country.”

Several innovations during the project saved ITD almost $450,000.

“Providing the contractor with a 3-D model for the Thornton Interchange and requiring the contractor to use automated grade control during construction shortened the required construction time and reduced the impact to traffic through the busiest part of the summer,” said ITD eastern Idaho District Engineering Manager Wade Allen.

“ITD will partner with the Idaho/Utah Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation by donating the prize money to them,” ITD eastern Idaho District Engineer Jason Minzghor said. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and eventually limits one’s ability to breathe.

Public-private partnership creates economic opportunities for east Idaho

One of the largest public-private partnerships in Idaho is moving forward after government and business leaders broke ground on the Northgate Project in east Idaho today (Thursday, Sept. 14).

This project represents an unprecedented partnership between six public and private entities that will increase mobility and economic opportunity along the Interstate 15 corridor.

“This project presents a fantastic opportunity for not only Pocatello and Chubbuck, but also all of East Idaho to grow and thrive into the future,” said Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.

The partnership consists of the cities of Chubbuck and Pocatello, Bannock County, the Pocatello Development Authority, the Idaho Transportation Department and Millennial Development.

In June, those partners signed an agreement to build a new interchange on I-15 and new local roads to connect to the interstate.

The new infrastructure would open the north end of Pocatello and east Chubbuck to new development by way of a master-planned community called Northgate. Once fully built, the project is expected to bring new a 1-million square foot IT park, retail businesses and 10,000 new homes.

“This project kicks off a visionary transformation in the Portneuf Valley that will echo for generations,” said project developer Buck Swaney.

Crews will begin some site work this fall, with the majority of the construction expected to begin in spring 2018.