The Idaho Transportation Department’s Southwest Idaho Office will double the number of days flagging will be conducted at the intersection of Idaho Highway 55 and the Banks-Lowman Road, which can see significant congestion during summer Sundays.
The Department will deploy flaggers on the six weekends this summer anticipated to have the highest number of travelers at the intersection. Historically, flaggers were deployed for the three summer holidays, Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. Using historical data and partnering with local event organizers, ITD is changing which days flaggers will mobilize in order to target the busiest days. The current schedule for flagging is:
- June 20th
- July 5th (Independence Day)
- All remaining Sundays in July (11, 18, 25)
- September 6th (Labor Day)
“We removed Memorial Day from our flagging schedule after we looked at years of travel data,” said Caleb Lakey, District Administrator of ITD’s Southwest Idaho Office. “We confirmed the reports of our maintenance staff that there are, on average, more cars on the road any given Sunday in July and the first weeks of August than Memorial Day. A lot of that is weather dependent, and we may still see a lot of people on the road if we have warm temperatures early on.”
ITD urges motorists to still plan for significant travel delays on ID-55 between Boise and Cascade, as well as on the local road, Banks-Lowman Road during summer weekends. Flagging the intersection relieves some congestion on Banks-Lowman Road but also slows traffic on ID-55.
“Ultimately, both highways and the intersection simply reach capacity as everyone who spent the weekend in the mountains returns home to the Treasure Valley,” said Lakey. “I urge those travelers to consider taking alternate routes or making their return outside the peak time of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Otherwise, plan to have some delay.”
ITD is partnering with the Western Federal Land Division of the Federal Highway Administration to develop a plan for improvements at this intersection. The project launched in March 2021 and will complete environmental and geotechnical work along with preliminary design options for the intersection improvement. ITD will seek additional funding to finish design, acquire right of way, and construct the improvement.
In addition to the increased flagging days, ITD has placed new advisory signs ahead of the intersection. The new signs will advise slower speeds and alert drivers to the congestion and flagging ahead. These signs will improve the safety of the intersection and the efficiency of deploying the flaggers – a major factor in the department’s decision to increase flagging days.
The 2021 flagging operation is the direct result of robust engagement between ITD and the communities in Boise and Valley County. In fall 2019, ITD held a public meeting in Garden Valley to discuss the challenges of the intersection. Following that meeting, the department formed a community working group which spent 2020 developing this plan.
“I want to thank the community for partnering with us on this situation,” added Lakey. “We all want to see business flourish while preserving the unique beauty of Idaho’s Central Mountains. The impacts of growth in southwest Idaho is felt in every community. The public servants at ITD are doing everything we can to meet the growing needs. All users of the road need to take responsibility to plan ahead, drive well, and make wise decisions.”
ITD encourages those traveling from or through the McCall/New Meadows area to consider using U.S. 95 as an alternate route. Those with trips from Stanley or Lowman should consider using Idaho Highway 21 to avoid the congested intersection.
Be sure to Recreate Responsibly. Pack plenty of water and snacks, ensure your vehicle is well maintained, fill your gas tank before long trips, and take a restroom break before traveling through a remote location. Check out road conditions and travel delays before you leave by downloading the Idaho 511 app, available for Apple and Android devices.