Efficient business practices and construction methods are occurring across the state. In this edition of ITD In Motion, Jennifer Gonzalez takes a look at three projects that aren’t just meeting ITD’s mission, but exceeding it.
BOISE – The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) recently found significant savings, and it was just overhead.
There are nearly 2,000 overhead sign structures on the state highway system, and more than a quarter of them are inspected each year. Finding even a slight savings in the per-unit cost can result in a significant overall savings, and that’s just what the ITD Bridge Asset Management team has done.
“In the 2005 contract, we paid an average of around $1,200 per structure,” said Bridge Asset Engineer Jake Legler. “In our most recent contract (April 2017), we are paying an average of $400 per structure. We are inspecting an average of 500 structures per year. This equates to a savings of nearly $320,000 per year.”
An overhead structures inspection program resumed in 2016 after an initial round of safety inspections were conducted from 2005-2007. The new inspection program called on sign-structure inspection experts Collins Engineers. National bridge inspection software also had to be modified to accommodate the nation’s only element-level inspections of overhead structures.
“Our bridge inspection is done at the element level, which means each structural element is assigned a condition rating. We set up the overhead structures inspection program to be at the element level so that it was consistent with our bridge inspection program. We used nationally defined element numbers for overhead structures in order to be consistent with other states if they ever adopt an element-level sign inspection program.”
The result goes beyond monetary savings and efficiency, to enhancing safety for travelers on Idaho’s 12,000-mile state highway system. The idea came through ITD’s innovation program earlier this year.
“In addition to the safety improvements on the structures themselves, we were able to employ some innovative inspection and traffic-control techniques, like using high-powered binoculars and climbing structures rather than closing lanes,” Legler explained.
“That not only made it safer for our workers and required no lane closures, but it also brought the inspection costs down significantly,” he added.
Heavy equipment operators – those who man excavators, graders, and dozers – are going the way of welder, pipe fitters, carpenters and other trades jobs; the demand for work is high but there are too few people skilled enough to do it.
Russ Rivera, a compliance officer with the Office of Civil Rights had an idea on how to change that. He secured federal grants to fund a three and a half week crash course to train heavy equipment operators.
Watch the video below for the full story.
Dramatically improved performance benefiting the road user has raised the profile of the Idaho Transportation Department nationally, and beyond. The article linked below comes from Traffic Technology International, a media outlet from the United Kingdom:
ITD is actually mentioned twice in the magazine — there is a second article, about Weigh-In-Motion technology, that runs from pages 38-42.
BOISE – Two Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) efforts — a massive clean up of a landslide in north-central Idaho, and the final piece of an interchange construction plan in eastern Idaho that significantly cut serious crashes — won regional awards June 28 in Juneau, Alaska.
Regional winners in the America’s Transportation Awards were announced during the annual conference of the Western Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (WASHTO). Idaho was one of only two western states to receive multiple awards; Colorado was the other. WASHTO is the western regional arm of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).
“The America’s Transportation Awards give state DOTs recognition for providing the essential connections that keep people, goods and our economy moving forward,” said David Bernhardt, AASHTO president.
The two ITD awards are listed below:
Elk City Slide Cleanup – winner in “Operational Excellence, Small Project”
The 2016 Elk City landslide unleashed 47 million lbs. of mud, rock and debris on Idaho State Highway 14, cut off access to a remote town and threatened grocery and gas deliveries, health-care visits, emergency services, and the livelihood of those who rely on the highway for transport.
ITD employees from all over the state swarmed to the site to respond. Many employees took leave of their typical job assignments to assist in the efforts. The cleanup took about six months, and cost close to $3.5 million.
The original slide dumped material across a 500-foot-wide stretch of highway. Two months later, a second slide brought down more material and pushed what was already loose debris even closer to the highway. Combined, the slides spilled 235,000 cubic yards of debris on the road and left a boulder weighing about 2.4 million lbs. on the hillside that ITD reduced with two dynamite charges.
“The entire team of worked safely and efficiently, with the people of Elk City in mind every step of the way,” said ITD District 2 Engineering Manager Doral Hoff.
Thornton Interchange – winner in “Best Use of Technology & Innovation, Small Project”
The opening of the new Thornton Interchange in eastern Idaho south of Rexburg marked the culmination of more than a decade of U.S. 20 safety improvements. Thornton was the last of seven new interchanges built in a 34-mile stretch of U.S. 20 between Idaho Falls and Sugar City to improve access management and traffic flow for greater highway safety and mobility.
Despite traffic volumes doubling, these improvements drastically decreased serious-injury crashes and fatalities. In addition, several money-saving innovations and technological advances shaved at least $450,000 off the final price tag for the Thornton project.
“Providing the contractor with a 3-D model for the Thornton Interchange and requiring them 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 District 6 Engineering Manager Wade Allen.
Alberto Gonzalez, the current DMV Modernization Manager, has been selected as the new Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Administrator. His first day will be July 2.
Gonzalez takes over a division of more than 200 people. DMV operates a broad spectrum of services throughout Idaho from headquarters and county staff, as well as Ports of Entry and Motor Vehicle Investigators.
Gonzalez takes over for Alan Frew, who has been DMV Administrator since 2006 but will be retiring July 1.
“I am excited to follow Alan Frew. One of his greatest strengths was the investment in the lives of his employees, and that’s something I want to build on,” said Gonzalez. “Alan also was a champion of great customer service — another legacy we will continue and grow.”
“We had several extremely qualified internal applicants for this position – which speaks to the level of talented individuals we have at ITD,” said Chief Deputy Director Scott Stokes. “We chose Alberto because of his experience in managing operations, developing winning teams, his ability to understand policy and processes that increase customer service and productivity.”
A veteran of managing people and programs, his service includes a great balance in both the public and private sector. He has 13 years in the private sector and 10 in public service.
Gonzalez said one of the biggest opportunities is further strengthening DMV’s relationship with the counties.
“We need to strengthen the support we provide the counties, including better communication, training, process improvements, system reliability and really build trust with the county offices,” said Gonzalez. “They’re the face of DMV, that’s the relationship we need to improve the most. We need to make it a more unified standard statewide operation – consistent across the state including headquarters.”
Gonzalez will continue to build upon the DMV reorganization that started last year. He said DMV has an opportunity to develop an even more highly skilled work force that can lend customer’s assistance and expertise across the spectrum of business.
“Much of the change that has occurred over the past year is a direct reflection of DMV employee’s ideas and innovations, and their continued engagement is essential as we move the organization forward,” Gonzalez said. “I look forward to working with the DMV employees and learning from them. We have an opportunity to truly be the model government organization that the public and other government agencies look up to, depend on and trust.”
Amy Schroeder, manager of the recent award-winning, $857 million Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle (GARVEE) Program, will return to lead the next round of GARVEE bonding approved by the Idaho Legislature during their recent 2017 session.
The legislature approved up to $300 million in bonding this time around. The first piece is the I-84 expansion between the Franklin Blvd. and Karcher Interchange in Nampa.
The original GARVEE program wrapped up in 2015, after a decade of investment in the state’s roads and bridges unprecedented in scope since the interstate system was built through Idaho in the 1960s. GARVEE allowed Idaho to invest in highway improvement projects in six corridors throughout the state, starting in 2006.
The 59 GARVEE projects were delivered without any delay to the regular construction program.
GARVEE projects also were delivered at an accelerated pace and at lower costs than anticipated. Funding the necessary improvements would have taken 30 years under the existing pay-as-you-go method. This enabled motorists to use the roads and bridges earlier and enhanced the state’s commerce and commercial transportation.
Schroeder has been with ITD’s District 3 office serving the 10 southwest Idaho counties as the Engineering Manager since 2011. She will be leaving D3 and returning to ITD Headquarters to manage the program. The transition period has yet to be decided. Schroeder will continue to work closely with D3 on Interstate 84 work, and possibly other district priorities, depending upon what the Idaho Transportation Board decides to do with the remaining bonding authority.
“I’m honored to be selected and get to work addressing needs in critical corridors,” Schroeder said.
“The initial GARVEE Program showed the traveling public that the department can and will deliver on its commitments. The success of GARVEE also translated into a level of trust within the legislature, and that was the catalyst for the additional bonding authority,” she added.
“Amy is very experienced in complex projects and with the demands of the GARVEE program,” said ITD Chief Deputy Scott Stokes. “Her experience fits perfectly with what the state of Idaho needs to deliver projects quickly on this high-profile program.”
“Amy is also very experienced in finding innovations and solutions that are unique that help ITD, not only in the GARVEE program, but also statewide in other projects and districts,” he added.
“Like most ITD projects, success will involve a team effort with unified vision. Amy can find and unify the resources needed for this challenging program to be successful.“
Harvard. Few names are as synonymous with excellence and achievement. So, it was noteworthy when Harvard recently interviewed Idaho Transportation Department Director Brian Ness for information on the agency’s innovation program.
For an hour, Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government talked with the director about the origins and logistics of the program, the organizational changes required, and the ability to replicate the program elsewhere in government to improve efficiencies and performance.
ITD’s employee-driven program solicits improvements from employees statewide.
After interviewing Ness April 12, Harvard was impressed. “We definitely think there’s at least one article we could write about your organization, perhaps more,” said Jessica Engelman, editor of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Innovators Network newsletter. Engelman said an article would likely be published after June, once the university slows down a bit for the summer.
An “Operational Excellence” column and one called “Better, Faster, Cheaper” were specifically mentioned as possibilities.
The 2016/2017 winter and spring across Idaho will likely be remembered for its intensity on all fronts-from snow to floods to the damage left in its wake. In this edition of ITD in Motion, Jennifer Gonzalez talked to our crews on the front line about their experiences battling every challenge Mother Nature has thrown our way.
LEWISTON – Two transportation bills were passed into law at the end of the recent Idaho Legislative session, giving the Idaho Transportation Department access to millions of dollars to invest in improving the state transportation system and funding pedestrian-safety improvements.
During the Idaho Transportation Board meeting Friday (April 21) in Lewiston, board members will be given a list of possible projects to fund through the newly authorized GARVEE (Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicle) bonds. These include four corridors with work left incomplete from the 2005-2014 GARVEE bonds.
The funding creates four revenue streams for transportation funding. First, they authorized ITD to borrow $300 million in GARVEE bonds. Next, they extended the “surplus eliminator” until 2019, with a 60/40 split among state and local transportation agencies. They also included 1 percent of sales tax and a portion of the cigarette tax going to a Congestion Mitigation Fund. This makes a total estimated funding of approximately $300 million.
This marks the second new road-funding package in recent years. In 2015, increases to the gas tax and registration fees allowed ITD to perform necessary maintenance on deteriorating infrastructure.
The new revenue from user fees has funded repairs on 60 projects across the state. All but a few of those projects were completed in just 18 months. The remaining few will finish this summer and fall.