Construction begins on US-12

Locsha Ranger Station to Holly Creek

Starting next week travelers on U.S. Highway 12 east of Lowell should expect to encounter construction as crews resurface and widen nine miles of the highway to include shoulders.

Work will take place between the Lochsa Ranger Station and Holly Creek and will conclude in mid-October. This is the final phase of the project.

Tree removal will start as early as Monday in preparation for widening.

Throughout construction the highway may be reduced to one lane with possible delays up to 30 minutes. Watch carefully for flaggers or pilot cars. Additional instructions for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate through the work zone will be shared in a separate announcement closer to the summer.

Click here to view a map of the project.

Live traffic impacts can be found by visiting 511.idaho.gov. You can also dial 5-1-1 or download the app. For information on this ITD project, check https://itdprojects.idaho.gov/pages/us12rangerstationtoholly.

Michael Johnson named new ITD Division Administrator of Engineering Services

Michael Johnson has been appointed as the new Division Administrator of Engineering Services by Director Scott Stokes. Mike has been part of the ITD management team as an engineering manager for the bridge delivery program since 2018. As Division Administrator, Mike will serve as the ITD State Bridge Engineer leading ITD Bridge, Environmental, Right of Way, and Asset Management sections for Highways.

Mike joined ITD in 1992 after graduating with a degree in Engineering from Idaho State University, and received his Professional Engineer’s license in 1996. He starting his career at ITD as part of the EIT program, where he had rotations in construction, traffic, and materials before taking a position in Bridge. Mike has 32 years of engineering experience leading teams and programs with customer service and quality as his priorities.

From 2003 until the end of 2018, Mike branched out from ITD to lead a bridge project delivery section for a consulting firm working across multiple states.  He returned to ITD to get more opportunities and to have a better work/life balance. Since returning to ITD, Mike has served as the State Load Rating Engineer, Bridge Design Group Leader, and State Bridge Engineer.  Mike has worked closely with the District Engineers and Chief Engineer to solve difficult project delivery and streamline emergency response processes.  Mike has also led the way on new initiatives teaming with the EIT Council supporting employees statewide.

Mike has been fortunate to have designed or reviewed over 100 bridge replacements or rehabilitations. His favorite projects included designing US-20 over Henry’s Fork in Island Park, reviewing the design of the Cloverdale Road Bridge over I-84 emergency replacement, and designing the I-86W over UPRR Chubbuck Bridge (which he worked on with his son Zak, an engineer with ITD in Pocatello).

“With more than 30 years of experience, Mike Johnson is a guiding leader with expertise to support teams on complex delivery issues that will serve ITD employees and local partners well as Division Administrator,” said ITD Chief Deputy/Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney. “We appreciate his commitment to safety, innovation, quality, and helping make ITD a great place to work.” 

Innovation is an essential focus for Johnson, who stated, “I look forward to partnering with stakeholders as we maintain and improve our highways and bridges across Idaho.  We have exceptional, dedicated employees, contractors, and consultants, and it will be an honor to team with them to provide a safe and efficient transportation system for all Idahoans.”  

Mike and his wife, Kim, have two grown sons, Zak and Parker. In addition to working as an engineer, Mike served 12 years as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves and has coached high school football for the last 14 years. Mike’s hobbies include mountain biking, running, coaching, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his family. Mike was born in Colorado, and spent his childhood moving around the United States following in Dad’s military assignments.  Prior to settling in Meridian after college, Mike moved to a different state on average every year and a half.

ITD’s Tabitha Smith energizes teens and parents about safe driving

Two teen girls holding microphones.
The cover of the Backseat Drivers Manual.
Backseat Drivers Manual

Teen drivers are 2.6 times more likely to be involved in a crash than any other age group. For the Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) reaching teens is more important than ever. They are a hard group to connect with. Tabitha Smith (pictured below on podcast), OHS’s occupant protection and teen driver safety program manager has been making those connections and getting them excited about traffic safety.

Tabitha worked with, Sam Walker and Ella Cornett (pictured above, right to left), two students at One Stone who created the “Backseat Driver’s Manual.” It’s an activity book designed to teach kids about safe driving and spark conversations among families. The students recognized Tabitha for her mentorship and guidance at One Stone’s annual fundraising dinner.

During the dinner presentation, Cornett said, “Tabitha empowered us to step outside of our comfort zones. Her steadfast support and positive energy gave us the confidence we needed to positively impact our state.”

A woman at a banquet table.
Tabitha at the One Stone annual dinner.

Kuna School District is also getting energized about safe driving. Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson invited Tabitha to the “Together We Can” podcast to talk about teen driver safety. They talked about unsafe driving behaviors common to teens, advice for parents, Parent-Student Driving Contracts, Alive at 25, and more. You can listen to the podcast on YouTube.

Tabitha’s dedication to promoting safe driving among young drivers is truly admirable. Through her partnerships with Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), Alliance Highway Safety, and the Idaho High School Activities Association (IHSAA), as well as her leadership in managing the Alive at 25 defensive driving program, she’s making a real impact.

If you know an Idaho teenager who could benefit from getting involved or learning more about these programs, don’t hesitate to reach out to Tabitha. You can contact her via email at tabitha.smith@itd.idaho.gov. It’s heartening to see individuals like Tabitha leading the charge for safer roads and empowered young drivers.

 

 

Two women with podcast microphones.
Kuna School District Podcast

Construction at Exit 208 on I-84 begins with nighttime lane closures

View of the Burley Interchange from the freeway

Construction to upgrade the Burley Interchange (Exit 208) on Interstate 84 is set to begin next week, and the nearby Heyburn Interchange (Exit 211) is scheduled to begin soon after. Both multi-year projects include replacing the interchanges, with funding coming from Governor Little’s Leading Idaho program.

Both interchanges were built in the 1960s. Feedback from open houses held in 2022 and 2023 led to the selection of new designs that are safer and capable of handling more traffic.

Work will begin at the Burley Interchange on Monday, Feb. 26, with crews bringing in equipment and setting up the work zone. Drivers should plan for nighttime lane closures while they place barrier and start removing vegetation in the median.

Upgrading the interchange will take until late 2026 and is expected to cost $85.1 million. Drivers can generally expect:

  • All lanes on I-84 will be open during the day. Traffic will be shifted many times to run on temporary pavement to keep traffic flowing.
  • Nighttime lane closures on I-84 as needed.
  • Nighttime ramp closures as needed.
  • Traffic shifts on State Highway 27 crossing over the interstate.

The new interchange will feature longer ramps to access I-84 and two new signals to control ramp traffic. The two existing westbound on-ramps will be consolidated to one ramp, and all bridges will be replaced. View the detailed design here.

This year the contractor will work on building temporary lanes in the median to shift traffic onto, start reconstructing westbound lanes with concrete and forming embankments for future ramps. Crews will also begin to replace the westbound bridge over the canal to the west of the interchange and the northbound bridge for SH-27 traffic over the interstate.

To stay up to date, visit the project website to sign up for email updates. Live traffic impacts can always be checked at 511.idaho.gov.

Construction at the nearby Heyburn Interchange is expected to start in mid-March.

The Leading Idaho program allows ITD to accelerate project timelines to address rapid growth and build critical infrastructure today that would otherwise take many years to fund and build.

Permanent signal structure set for installation on SH-53 at Ramsey Road

Sunset view behind intersection of SH-53 and Ramsey Road, showcasing temporary traffic signal overhead.

Beginning next week, crews will be installing the permanent traffic signal structure and advance warning lights at the intersection of State Highway 53 and Ramsey Road east of Rathdrum.

The existing temporary signal was originally installed in 2019 to help with congestion while traffic was detoured during construction of the interchange at SH-53 an US-95. Construction for roadway improvements and widening to this intersection were completed in 2023 with the addition of right and left turn lanes on both roadways to improve safety and accommodate increasing volumes of traffic.

This permanent signal installation will finalize the project and should be completed over the course of two weeks. During that time there may be temporary lane reductions or closures to accommodate crews and equipment as they work.

Plan ahead by using Idaho 511 online, on your phone or on the app for updates and delays.

Nighttime work to begin in early March on the Long Bridge

Nighttime work on the Long Bridge south of Sandpoint is scheduled to begin in early March to reinforce and protect the driving surface.

Taking advantage of the mild winter weather, crews are getting a jump start on this project early in the season by first grinding down the existing roadway. Crews will then return in the summer to resurface the bridge to provide better traction and protect it from regular wear and tear from traffic and the weather.

This initial phase is expected to take up to two weeks, and all work will be completed overnight from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to avoid slowing down traffic during the day. Flaggers will be staged at either end of the bridge allowing a single, alternating lane of traffic to pass while crews work their way across the structure. This work is largely dependent on weather conditions. Digital messaging boards will be used to alert drivers ahead of the anticipated start date.

Work later this summer will take approximately one month to complete. During this time, drivers will encounter a similar experience during nighttime hours with traffic reduced to a single lane.

Project Manager Steve Nettleton explains that this work is necessary upkeep on the bridge surface.

“By doing this work now, we’re able to take a different approach to grinding the deck and get the work done much quicker,” Nettleton said.

Drivers should pay attention to digital messaging boards, and plan ahead for delays by utilizing Idaho’s 511 system for real-time updates.

Aviation Safety Stand Down March 9 will focus on pilot safety

The 2024 Aviation Safety Stand Down for the thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts, is just around the corner. This FREE event is slated for Saturday, March 9 at the Nampa Civic Center, from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

This year, The Idaho Division of Aeronautics (Aero) will focus on backcountry safety, including backcountry medical care. Since most accidents occur in the flight pattern, we have sessions on ways to reduce loss-of-control accidents. This will include a stall/spin refresher and a discussion of float-plane operations. See the schedule for more details.

This event is sponsored by Aero, which exists to “encourage, foster, and assist in the development of aeronautics in the state.” This includes managing 32 state-owned airports, helping Idaho airports with state and federal grants for maintenance and construction, assisting communities with zoning decisions near airports, promoting aviation safety, inspiring kids to enter careers in aviation, and coordinating aviation search and rescue.

If you are involved in aviation safety and wish to have tablespace at the event, please contact Aero, or simply want more info regarding the event, please email idaho.aeronautics@itd.idaho.gov or call 208-334-8775 for additional information.

Register with your FAA WINGS email address for WINGS Credit.

See the registration link for the full agenda.

 

ITD extends online comment period for SH-75 Bellevue to Broadway Run project

Open house guests look at exhibits

The Idaho Transportation Department has extended the online comment period for a project to improve State Highway 75 between Bellevue and Broadway Run. Community members are encouraged to visit the online open house and submit feedback until Feb. 28 at SH-75: Bellevue to Broadway Run | ITD Projects (idaho.gov).

Plans include widening SH-75 to two lanes in each direction and improving specific intersections between McKercher Boulevard and Timber Way, and between Birch Street and Fox Acres Road. Plans also include improvements to the Gannett Road intersection and transit improvements at the Broadway Run intersection.

ITD hosted an in-person open house on Jan. 30 in Hailey and originally planned to close the comment period today.

“We had an outstanding turnout at the open house in January with 180 people showing up,” Project Manager Mark Campbell said. “We want to ensure all community members have the opportunity learn about the project and send in their feedback, so we’re accepting comments for another two weeks.”

Final design plans are expected to be completed later this year. Details about the project are available at itdprojects.idaho.gov/pages/sh75bellevue.

Football fans (and Swifties) should plan a sober ride home after the Big Game

A football on grass.

Got plans for the Big Game this weekend? The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) wants to remind football (and Taylor Swift) fans that plans aren’t complete until they include a sober ride home.
Idaho Office of Highway Safety (OHS) data shows that during the Big Game weekend in 2022, there were 20 impaired driving crashes in Idaho and one person was killed.
“Some fans are spending a lot of energy figuring out whether Taylor Swift will make it to the big game in time,” said Highway Safety Manager Josephine Middleton. “Don’t let your night turn into one of her songs like “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” spend some time planning how you’re getting home after the game.”
If you’re hosting a party, make sure everyone has a plan to get home safely. That might include a designated driver, calling a rideshare or cab, or offering them a safe place to stay until they are sober.

Idaho students can display skills in Aviation Art Contest

Idaho students age 5-18 are encouraged to demonstrate their artistic skills under the theme “Careers in Aerospace” in the annual Aviation Art Contest through the Idaho Division of Aeronautics. The contest is open now through April 5, with winners announced May 3.

Age-group winners (categories listed below) received the following awards/recognition:

  • First place winners:
    • Invitation to ride in an airplane
    • Copy of their artwork signed by our Governor
    • Congratulatory letter
  • Second place winners:
    • Receive $25 in art supplies
    • Congratulatory letter

The rules are as follows:

  • Submit original artwork
  • Paper size must be 11” x 17” (Landscape orientation)
  • Must be two-dimensional watercolor, acrylic or oil, colored pencil, felt-tip marker, ballpoint
  • pen, pen and ink, and/or crayon
  • Must have a completed Certificate of Authenticity attached securely to the back of the piece of artwork (see link below for certificate)
  • No pencil, charcoal, collage, digital, or clip art

Artwork Categories by Age:
Age Group I: 5–6 years old
Age Group II: 7–9 years old
Age Group III: 10–12 years old
Age Group IV: 13–15 years old
Age Group V: 16–18 years old

Winners will also be featured in the 2025 Aviation Art Calendar

See the Entry Form under the “Safety & Education” tab on the Aeronautics webpage at the ITD website or this link.