Idaho one of only two western states to win multiple regional transportation awards

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.

Gonzalez takes reins as new Idaho DMV Administrator July 2

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 selected to head up next GARVEE program

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.“

ITD goes Ivy League

ITD goes Ivy League with Harvard

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.

Looking back on a historic, record-setting winter


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.

New transportation funding allows ITD to continue effective, efficient management

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.

Watch a video about the rapid repairs using new revenue here.

Drive smart: slow down in work zones

Go Orange Message

Construction season is once more gearing up across Idaho which means plenty of orange on the roads – on both people and cones.

Of course the orange isn’t there to make you think of hunting season or add some color to your drive. It’s to make you aware of the dangers present in work zones. When ITD employees wear orange they want you to see them and to slow down!

This year, more than 100 members of ITD’s staff who aren’t typically out on the roads came together and wore orange to share this message of safety, and to show support for those who take risks repairing and maintaining our roads and bridges. You can see a video of the event below.

Don’t forget, fines for traffic violations increase in work zones. More importantly, you can help be an agent for change by slowing down and driving cautiously when you come to a construction project.

Help our people make it home safe this year!

McGrath selected as new Chief Operations Officer

ITD Director Ness announced on Wednesday, March 1 that Travis McGrath has been selected as ITD’s new Chief Operations Officer following a thorough national search during the last several months. He is expected to start in late March.

Travis comes to ITD from the private sector. He has been the Pacific Northwest and Alaska “Operations Leader” at Golder Associates the past seven years and with the company for nearly 20 years.

“What stood out about Travis was his ability as a strong communicator and consensus builder, his strong decision-making experience and his understanding of the engineering side of operations, along with his diverse business background,” said Director Ness. “Travis has shown a history of setting the vision and holding those around him accountable throughout his career.”

Travis said he’s excited to move from Seattle area to serve ITD and the people of Idaho. He plans to begin this new chapter of his career at the end of March.

“I was intrigued by ITD’s recent transformation, which is impressive by any measure,” said McGrath. “I’ve held operational leadership roles in two diverse settings (US Army and consulting engineering) and recently navigated through a major organizational change like ITD’s. I believe that these experiences, along with my passion for teamwork and continual improvement, will help ITD continue its important mission through pursuit of innovation, risk management, and focusing on results.”

Travis brings a strong military background to this position. He served as a Combat Engineer Officer for more than a decade on active duty and as a reserve. He led a platoon during both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

Travis replaces Jim Carpenter who served ITD for more than 31 years the last three-and-a-half as Chief Operations Officer.

I-15 port features new tech, $2.1M annual savings

POCATELLO – New Weigh-in-Motion/Automatic Vehicle Identification (WIM/AVI) technology recently installed in southeastern Idaho at the Inkom Port of Entry (POE) is expected to fast-track benefits for commercial vehicles using the scales, the general motoring public, and local economies to the tune of $2.1 million annually.

Approximately 3,100 commercial vehicles use the port each day, and another 14,000 passenger vehicles pass by on Interstate 15. The estimated annual savings to the industry is based on time and fuel savings. If a truck is compliant, this message appears on the sign near the roadway and the truck can continue.

The motoring public will also see less congestion in the area of the weigh station because fewer trucks will be required to pull in for processing.

“The possibilities are exciting,” said David Hankla, who manages ITD Ports of Entry in eastern and southeastern Idaho. “The system has been fine-tuned compared to earlier installations, so the potential upside is tremendous.”

The WIM/AVI system allows commercial trucks that meet state size and weight limits to bypass weigh stations at highway speeds. It is estimated that 50 to 60 percent of commercial truck traffic will be able to bypass the port.

Loops embedded in the roadway track the movement of each vehicle through the system, which registers the vehicle’s weight and axle configuration as it travels over the scales at highway speed. As truck drivers cruise down the highway, the electronic system verifies that the truck’s legal weight, height, length, safety rating and credentials are in adherence with the law.

If everything checks out legally, the truck driver receives a green light on their transponder or a message on a changeable message sign directing them to bypass the weigh station and continue on its route. Conversely, if there are any legal issues, the driver receives a red light or direction to report to the weigh station for further inspection. Drivers may also receive a red light for a random pull-in.

This allows more time to be spent checking commercial vehicles for weight and safety violations. Trucks running safe and legal loads benefit by not being slowed down with redundant stops as they make their way across country. Economically, more freight moved more efficiently means better profit margins for the industries affected.

The installation south of Pocatello finished in late January. A grant from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration kick-started the project. ITD’s part of the match was $596,000 for building slabs and conduit runs to support scale installation and hardware for the WIM system. The project was fast-tracked from project design phase to construction due to extremely tight grant deadlines.

Similar systems have been installed at the East Boise POE, the Huetter POE in Coeur d’Alene, and at the Lewiston POE. The Sage Junction POE in eastern Idaho, about 60 miles south of the Montana border, is slated for the next WIM/AVI installation, starting later this year. WIM/AVI locations are determined by factors such as volume of commercial truck traffic, need, and industry input.

Broadway Bridge rebuild wins Government Leadership Award

ITD’s replacement of Boise’s Broadway Bridge was recognized Dec. 19 with a 2016 Leadership in Government award from the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho. The award recognizes individuals, businesses and projects that demonstrate leadership supporting Communities in Motion 2040, the regional long-range transportation plan for Ada and Canyon counties.