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.
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.