Recommendations to improve safety near Aht’Wy Plaza on U.S. 12/U.S. 95 delivered after conclusion of road safety audit

Traffic approaches on U.S. 12/95 near the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge in Lewiston.

An independent team assembled by the Idaho Transportation Department to conduct a road safety audit on U.S. 12/U.S. 95 in front of Aht’Wy Plaza delivered recommendations yesterday.

The team developed recommendations to address highway safety concerns near entrances to the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge after the deaths of two drivers within approximately three months. Team members came from Nez Perce Tribal Transportation Department, Nez Perce County Road and Bridge, the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council, the Federal Highway Administration, ITD and ITD’s Office of Highway Safety.

They recommended an interchange, which is already planned for the east entrance, as the long-term solution to provide safe access from the plaza to the highway. The following phased options could be pursued by the Nez Perce Tribe with ITD before its construction.

  • Short-term options: All incoming traffic would enter at the west approach, and all exiting traffic would leave at the east approach.
  • Later options: Three possible options were presented and could be implemented individually or jointly.
    • Add an acceleration lane for eastbound traffic at the east entrance.
    • Widen the westbound right turn lane at the east entrance to create separation between turning and thru traffic.
    • Create ThrU-turns for both intersections. All left turns into and out of the plaza would be accomplished by first turning right and then making a U-turn to reach a destination.

Lowering the speed limit was considered but not recommended.

As part of the audit, the team evaluated road conditions and driver behavior. Factors not considered in the audit include construction costs, environmental impacts and right of way impacts.

A final report will be issued in three to four weeks. ITD will start assessing the viability of all recommendations with the tribe in the meantime.

Construction of ID-55 improvements in Marsing begins; open house Jan. 24

ID-55 Marsing Improvements

Construction of improvements to Idaho Highway 55 through downtown Marsing has begun. The project will rebuild the Snake River Bridge and repave the highway from the river to the U.S. 95 Junction. When complete, the project will enhance local business opportunities and improve safety and mobility through the area.

Initial work on irrigation lines began Monday, January 14. Major work includes replacing the School Drain pipe and C-Line Canal pipe. Traffic will be reduced to one lane and a temporary signal will direct alternating traffic. Work will be limited to daytime hours, though the lane closure and signal will operate 24/7 for the next 3-4 weeks.

ITD invites the public to an open house to review the final construction plans for this project. The open house will be held Thursday, Jan. 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the American Legion Hall in Marsing (126 2nd Ave. W). Attendees will have an opportunity to view construction plans for the new Snake River Bridge and ID-55 improvements, ask questions  of project staff, and learn how to stay informed during construction.

“We are encouraging motorists to plan extra time when driving through the areas during construction,” said David Barrett, ITD Project Manager. “We are improving a major route used to haul agricultural products and move people to and through a beautiful part of Southeast Idaho.”

Work to rebuild the bridge will begin in earnest this spring. During construction, one lane of the bridge will be open to traffic with a 14-foot width restriction. The new bridge is expected to be complete by the summer of 2020.

The contractor for this $20.9 million project is Wadsworth Brothers Construction out of Salt Lake City, Utah.

For more project information and to sign up for updates, visit ITDprojects.org/Marsing55improvements or text Marsing55 to 22828.

ITD joins officers on US-12 patrol near Aht’wy Plaza

Cop car sits at entrance to Clearwater River Casino and Lodge in Lewiston.

Highway safety partners came together on December 28 to raise drivers’ awareness near the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge on US-12 in Lewiston.

Officers from several local agencies participated in a special patrol near the entrances and allowed ITD traffic engineer Jared Hopkins to ride along.

For four hours, officers looked for traffic infractions and handed out a letter—instead of a ticket—to encourage drivers to discuss safety at home. Nearly forty drivers received a letter.

The letter read:

Dear Driver:

Today you’ll see extra officers from local law enforcement agencies in the area.

We’re working together for the safety of yourself and other drivers on this stretch of US-12/US-95 in front of Aht’wy Plaza (Clearwater River Casino and Lodge). We’ve lost too many from our community at this location recently, and we hope the sight of so many police cars reminds you to stay alert, whether you are exiting the casino or driving past it.

Several of these agencies will also be participating in a road safety audit next month to look at data regarding speed limits, crashes and driver behavior. The goal is to identify strategies to improve safety immediately in the area while design continues for a full interchange. The interchange’s design will be completed next winter, with construction following once funding is secured.

Our efforts today are to raise awareness, rather than write tickets. Follow our efforts on Twitter with #US12casino #live #patrolpartners and stay safe.

From Nez Perce Tribal Police, Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office, Idaho State Police and Idaho Transportation Department

The joint patrol allowed law enforcement and ITD staff to watch the intersections together and share their thoughts.

“The patrol gave me the opportunity to observe, and I saw several vehicles failing to stop at the west exit and only one speeding,” Hopkins said. “I was also able to clarify how speed limits are set, so that the officers enforcing them knew why the limit is and remains 65 mph.”

Fresh perspectives will benefit the road safety audit, which is scheduled later this month.

View coverage of the event by typing in the hashtags or @IdahoITD on Twitter. For more information on commonly proposed ideas to improve safety in the area, visit the news tab at itd.idaho.gov/d2.

Past and present efforts to improve safety near the casino on US-12

Crashes near Aht’wy Plaza have become too frequent of a sight for those who drive past them or see them on the news. Too many of them have ended with a loss to our community.

While it is not a new area of concern for drivers on US-12 near the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge, many have been motivated by two recent deaths to offer their own solutions.

Several have been considered by the Idaho Transportation Department as the area developed, but these inquiries provide an opportunity to clarify why certain actions have or have not been taken.

LOWERING THE SPEED LIMIT

Although this seems to be the easy answer, lowering the speed limit may not be the best solution.

Speed limits are generally determined by how fast drivers comfortably and naturally move in the area, usually set at a pace described as what is “safe and reasonable.” They are safest when the majority of drivers are traveling the same speed, which is why ITD conducts speed studies to determine the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are traveling at or below before establishing a limit.

Speed studies are typically prompted by changes to the area, including new businesses opening and fluctuations in traffic patterns, as well as requests to adjust any speed zones. Five studies have been conducted near the casino since its opening by both the Nez Perce Tribe and by ITD, with the earliest study occurring in 1997 and the most recent in October 2018. ITD has also met with the Idaho State Police multiple times to analyze crash data.

To date, these discussions and drivers’ speeds have not supported changing the limit, and without either a serious commitment of law enforcement resources or a serious change in roadway conditions, reducing the speed limit would not be effective in improving safety or slowing traffic to or from the area.

While vehicles moving at lower speeds would impact each other with less force, that would only be the case if all drivers were moving at that lower speed limit. But if one driver was following the lower, posted speed limit and another was moving at the natural pace allowed by the road, additional conflicts could arise.

The greatest concern is that some drivers would obey the slower posted speed limit and others would not. As these drivers encountered slower vehicles, they would likely make more abrupt and unpredictable movements (like last-minute lane changes), which could increase the crash rate.

Most crashes at the entrances have been related to exiting drivers failing to yield to oncoming traffic when turning left. Variation in vehicle speeds through the area would likely make that left turn tougher—with some vehicles approaching at lower speeds and others at higher speeds, it would be difficult to judge a safe gap in traffic.

ITD has repeatedly investigated the safety and appropriateness of the posted limit, with each study supporting the current limit to prevent a possible increase in crashes.

INSTALLING A SIGNAL

If most crashes are related to drivers experiencing difficulty turning left, then it is reasonable that a signal could improve safety.

Just as speed limits are set a certain way based on data collection and analysis, signals are normally installed at specific locations once shown to be warranted.

Signal warrants are based on a variety of engineering factors, including how many vehicles make which turning movements. Although an engineer’s judgment can influence the final decision, these warrants are the primary basis for signal installation to ensure that traffic continues to flow smoothly.

Signals should only be installed when warranted as they typically increase certain kinds of crashes, including rear-end collisions.

Data collected from the entrances in 2012 did not support installing a signal or merit interrupting the flow of traffic on the highway.

IF NOTHING ELSE, CLOSING ACCESS

ITD uses access agreements all over the state to ensure that new or changing developments near highways do not create safety or mobility issues for drivers.

In the case of the casino, access to US-12 was initially provided by a county road which already had an agreement in place. When the county transferred the road to the casino in 2000, it altered its use, prompting a fresh access agreement.

A traffic impact study performed near the time of the development of the access agreement proposed an interchange as the ultimate solution, especially given expansion plans for the facility. It also outlined smaller improvements that could be implemented in the meantime to keep up with the growth of the facility and traffic to it while design continued on the interchange.

The tribe agreed to these terms, giving ITD the authority to restrict access if the commitments were not met. In the intervening years, some phased improvements—such as lighting, turn bays and acceleration lanes—have been constructed, but the final commitment remains unfulfilled.

Rather than close access and hinder productive relationships, ITD chose to work as a partner to the tribe. The department has remained involved in the design process, providing input on the development of the interchange to guarantee it will meet standards when incorporated into the public transportation system. ITD has listened to the tribe’s concerns, granted extensions when necessary and helped aid environmental discussions needed to complete the proposed interchange.

THE LONG-TERM SOLUTION

Although development of the interchange has been delayed for a few years as the tribe encountered environmental issues common to this type of project, they have funded other improvements proposed by ITD in the meantime, including the construction of a concrete island and the placement of additional signage in the area in the last year.

In January, a team of diverse professionals will meet to examine the data—all refreshed in the last month—as well as driver behavior to identify any and all solutions.

The best solution remains—and has always been—an interchange, but the road safety audit aims to determine effective steps that can be implemented immediately. ITD will work with the tribe to carry out any viable solutions the team recommends.

The interchange’s design is set for completion next winter, with construction following the tribe’s procurement of funds.

Construction of the interchange will reduce the possibility and frequency of crashes. Engineering and enforcement can help improve safety, but only engaged drivers can truly ensure safety while accessing and using the highway.

Collecting trash, even in the winter

An Adopt a Highway volunteer stops for a picture on Ramsey Road in CDA.

Trash is deposited along state highways year round, but most drivers tend to forget about it during the winter months when snow covers it temporarily.

That doesn’t apply to Richard White, a 63-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident who for nearly three years has independently roved city streets and state highways to pick it up.

White said he retired early from his job with Strate Line Crane & Rigging (now Barnhart Crane & Rigging) due to medical issues, and months later found himself tinkering on a neighbor’s bicycle. Given his health condition, he was surprised when his test trip down the driveway to get the mail worked out.

He decided to get back on his larger bike and gained access to mobility he had been missing. He also found trash on his travels, inspiring him to develop a loop through Coeur d’Alene and even toward Post Falls that covers more than 20 miles.

“I can’t see or walk very well, or even drive, but I can pick up trash,” White said.

White makes the trip every morning on his bike, wearing reflective gear and packing tools like plastic bags, a saw and rolls of wire on his back. His trips are so regular that often he does not even need to stop to pick up trash but rather slows down to catch what piled up in the last day.

He has talked to local business owners who let him throw the garbage he collects into their dumpsters, and now as an official participant of ITD’s Adopt a Highway program, the department’s operations crews will help by collecting the bags from the roadside.

His unusually mobile setup has attracted a lot of attention.

“People are pulling over constantly to ask me what I’m doing,” White said. “Some even offer to help once they learn.”

A testament to his dedication, White’s daily trips also serve as reminder to us all to do our part in keeping communities clean and healthy.

ITD to conduct road safety audit near Aht’wy Plaza in Lewiston

The Idaho Transportation Department is forming a team to conduct a road safety audit near Aht’wy Plaza.

Road safety audits can help identify creative solutions to safety concerns by asking a diverse group of professionals to examine a particular stretch of road. This safety audit will focus on the section of US-12 near the entrances to the Clearwater River Casino and Lodge.

The team will meet in January to evaluate road and environmental conditions as well as driver behavior. They will use that data to provide recommendations for safety enhancements.

“The goal of the team is to come up with solutions that can be implemented immediately while we continue to work with the tribe to develop a long-term fix,” ITD Traffic Engineer Jared Hopkins said. “This process will be a continuation of our partnership with the Nez Perce Tribe and Idaho State Police to improve safety at this location.”

This year ITD and the tribe worked together on multiple safety improvements near the casino. These projects include the installation of a concrete island at the west entrance to prevent exiting drivers from turning left, and last week new signs were installed to alert exiting drivers of oncoming traffic.

The department will continue to work with the tribe to evaluate and implement solutions developed from the road safety audit while the tribe continues design work for a full interchange at the east entrance.

The interchange design is scheduled for completion next winter.

Appellate court rules in favor of US-95 expansion south of Moscow

The picture above shows four lanes of US-95 between Thorncreek Road and Genesee. 

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Idaho Transportation Department and the Federal Highway Administration on December 7 during the latest appeal about US-95 expansion south of Moscow.

Per the decision, ITD will finish right-of-way acquisition and submit a permit application regarding wetland mitigation to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After those two steps, the project can be put out to bid for construction.

Work could begin as early as late summer 2019. Project details can be found online at us95thorncreek.com.

In January 2018, the Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition appealed an August 2017 ruling from the U.S. District Court for Idaho that found the two agencies appropriately followed the environmental process during the development of the project between Thorncreek Road and Moscow.

 

I-84 overnight closures as work begins to replace Cloverdale Road Overpass

Damaged Cloverdale overpass

BOISE – Construction is underway on improvements to the Cloverdale Overpass bridge and Cloverdale Road between Franklin Road and Camas Drive.

The Ada County Highway District and the Idaho Transportation Department transportation are joining together to replace and widen the damaged Cloverdale overpass bridge, and widen and improve the sections of road adjoining the bridge. Cloverdale Road will remain closed between Franklin Road and Camas Drive during construction, but one lane of travel in each direction will be open by June 15, 2019. Details of the improvements are listed below.

The public will experience immediate impacts of the construction as crews demolish the damaged bridge over Interstate 84. All eastbound lanes and two westbound lanes of I-84 will be closed overnight Monday (December 3) from 9 PM to 5 AM Tuesday morning. All westbound lanes and two east bound lanes of I-84 will be closed overnight Tuesday (December 4) from 10 PM to 6 AM Wednesday morning. Please refer to the map below for detour routes.

Idaho State Police will increase patrols to promote safe driving behavior in the work zone. The work zone may contain hidden hazards and the public is advised to stay out of the area. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic has been allowed to use the existing Cloverdale Overpass, but following demolition that route will be unavailable.

Throughout construction, access to local businesses and residences on Cloverdale Road will remain open. The work will include, but not be limited to:  general construction noise, dust, equipment backup alarms and ground vibration. There may be some night work, but typical work hours on Cloverdale Road will be 7 AM to 8 PM.

This project will construct the following improvements:

  • Replace and widen the Cloverdale overpass bridge
  • Widen Cloverdale Road to two travel lanes in each direction with a center turn lane
  • A raised bike lane, curb, gutter and sidewalk on both sides of the roadway
  • Install an upgraded pedestrian signal at Emerson Drive and Cloverdale Road
  • Expand the bridge over the Ridenbaugh Canal

This joint project has been awarded to Concrete Placing Company, Inc. out of Boise for $10.3 million. Project information and the opportunity to sign up for email updates can be found online at: http://www.achdidaho.org/Projects/proj_road_cloverdale-road-franklin-road-to-camas-drive.aspx.

Plan ahead and slow down if you’re hitting the road this Thanksgiving

With the Thanksgiving holiday and the potential for winter weather moving through Idaho later this week, the Idaho Transportation Department wants to remind citizens to slow down and pay attention before heading out.

ITD encourages everyone to check 511.idaho.gov before their journey. Whether by desktop or the free app, this tool offers updated road conditions 24 hours a day.

Additionally, ITD offers many more resources on staying safe during your holiday trip, or anytime you hit the road. For a full list of what items motorists should have in their vehicles, as well as details on how ITD crews keep highways clear of ice and snow, visit our website at https://itd.idaho.gov/road-mtce/

From everyone at ITD, have a safe and memorable Thanksgiving.

 

 

ITD offers holiday safe-driving tips

BOISE—Thanksgiving is a time for food, family, friends, and for many of us, travel. It’s also one of the deadliest times of year on our roadways because of drunk and impaired drivers.

That’s why this Thanksgiving weekend, the Idaho Transportation Department’s (ITD) Office of Highway Safety is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind everyone: If You Feel Different, You Drive Different. Drive Sober During Thanksgiving.

“We know that for many folks, holiday celebrations involve some adult beverages,” said Highway Safety Manager John Tomlinson. “It’s okay for adults to choose to have a drink with their Thanksgiving dinner. What’s not okay is getting behind the wheel after drinking.”

Drunk-driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. According to NHTSA, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roadways.

In fact, during 2017, more than one out of every three traffic fatalities during the Thanksgiving Holiday period involved an alcohol-impaired driver.

Excessive drinking is prevalent over Thanksgiving due in part to cultural phenomenons like “Blackout Wednesday,” that highlights and even encourages the heavy consumption of alcohol throughout the holiday weekend.

“It’s a combination of a couple different things,” said Tomlinson. “We see a lot of young adults coming home for the holiday who choose to catch up with friends at a bar. There are also people who plan to cook all day Thursday who choose to go out for dinner and drinks on Wednesday.”

Tomlinson offered the following tips to stay safe on the road:

  • Plan a way to safely get home before the festivities begin.
  • If you are impaired, take a taxi, use a ride share, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation.
  • Download NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which helps you identify a sober ride home and your location for pick up.
  • Passengers should never ride with an impaired driver. If you think a driver may be impaired, do not get in the car.
  • If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make safe travel arrangements to where they are going.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact local law enforcement.