Pile driving to begin Thursday at Pocatello

Road Work Ahead sign

Blue and white circular logo for "Leading Idaho" projects sponsored by Governor Little

POCATELLO – Beginning Thursday morning work crews at the System Interchange will begin pile driving piers for new bridges. As part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative, the project was fast-tracked partly due to the aging 1960s bridges due for replacement. The new piers will create a stable foundation to protect the structure of the new bridges.

Pile driving uses a hydraulic hammer that forces piers downward through the soil. Unavoidably, the operation creates noise as the hammer falls on the pier. Work for this portion of the project will be conducted during the daytime. However, in the next week or two additional pile driving will be required at Chubbuck Road that will include some nighttime work.

Motorists should carefully follow signs and posted speed limits while travelling through the construction area. With crews working day and night and with the onset of winter it is especially important that drivers be alert and proceed safely through the work area. Drivers are encouraged to check https://511.idaho.gov or the 511 app to keep track of road conditions and construction. Project details are available on ITD’s projects website — https://itdprojects.org/projects/i-86-i-15-system-interchange/

Citizens who wish to receive updates via email can subscribe at this link: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/g9MMkN9

This project is partially funded with Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation (TECM) funds as part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative. The 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.

Construction crew driving piles with heavy equipment
Pile driving utilizes a hydraulic hammer to place the piles deep below the surface of the ground.

Lisa McClellan named new Idaho DMV Administrator

BOISE – Lisa McClellan, who has been with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) since 2004 and was named the department’s Professional of the Year in February, recently became Idaho’s DMV Administrator. She has broad experience at ITD, having served in management of both the department’s Financial Services and DMV divisions.

As the leader of DMV, she will manage a dedicated team of 244 professionals.

In the DMV, McClellan helped with the transformation of the organization, process improvements, modernization of software, staff development, and county & stakeholder relationships. She has played a crucial leadership role in recent years as ITD modernized DMV software which is now the catalyst for time-saving innovations.

Lisa holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from Lewis Clark State College.

“This is fantastic news for the department and for Idaho,” ITD Director Scott Stokes said. “Lisa is a champion and will do great things, benefiting all Idahoans. Lisa has an aggressive vision that is going to save citizens and businesses time and money through a new generation of DMV service options.”

Lisa is looking forward to new challenges and opportunities.

“I’m excited to lead a courageous team of dedicated DMV professionals who have the customer centered in all we do,” said McClellan. “DMV has come a long way and will continue to be committed to customer service, stakeholders and partners, and the pursuit of innovation!”

Rock scaling to begin Wednesday on SH-75 south of Challis

Road Work Ahead sign
Geotechnical crew scaling the rockface
Geotechnical crew scaling a rockface

RIGBY – Beginning Wednesday the Idaho Transportation Department will be scaling rock on SH-75 between Challis and Clayton. Rock scaling is the safe removal of loose rock from the face of a mountain or hill to ensure it does not fall on the roadway.

Contractor Rock Supremacy will be working at four different sites over the next two weeks. Work will occur Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The four sites are:

  • MP 231.45 to 231.52 Site one: ~1-days
  • MP 231.66 to 231.75 Site two: ~3-days
  • MP 235.05 to 235.24 Site three: ~3-days
  • MP 236.67 to 236.76 Site four: ~4-days

During operations motorists should expect up to 20-minute delays. Drivers are encouraged to check road conditions on 511.idaho.gov


Idaho wins national workforce award for ICONIC effort

BOISE – Idaho’s Workforce Development program, spearheaded by ITD’s Civil Rights section, recently won a national award for the effort from the U.S. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration. Idaho was one of only three states to win the State Transportation Innovation Council (STIC) award. Idaho’s award was the Idaho Career Opportunities – Next in Construction (ICONIC) training program, held in multiple locations in the Gem State in 2022.

The award was given Oct. 23 during the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) conference in Orlando, Florida.

The ICONIC program was developed to meet a specific need: Idaho is one of the fastest-growing states in the country and has been for several years. This growth has brought a need to rapidly update and improve infrastructure, but the state faced the challenge of finding qualified labor to perform the work. Specifically, skilled heavy equipment operators, carpenters, truck drivers, and concrete/cement masons.

To address the problem, ITD’s Office of Civil Rights, in partnership with the Idaho Workforce Development Council, Idaho Associated General Contractors, Idaho Native American Tribes, Baker Technical Institute, College of Eastern Idaho, and local highway construction contractors, implemented the ICONIC program.

“This program could not have been successful without established partnerships,” ITD Civil Rights Manager Jessika Phillips said.

Although the program has been in existence for a few years, the 2022 version was different in that courses were offered in each corner of the state (Idaho Falls in March/April, Boise in April/May & Coeur d’Alene in June/July). Having multiple locations allowed students to stay close to home and their families during training.  The 2022 program also added hands-on training in multiple trades: heavy equipment operating and concrete cement masonry.

One of the most successful participant locations in 2022 was the ICONIC program delivered to residents in Idaho Falls between March 21 and April 22. Over five weeks and 200+ hours, students received certifications in OSHA-10, forklift, Hazardous Waste Operations Emergency Response, flagging, and first-aid/CPR during in-the-field sessions. Classroom instruction included reading blueprints, construction-applied math, confined spaces, trenching and shoring, securing loads, pre-trip and chains checks, and honing career soft skills.

Students removed, formed, poured, and finished a concrete sidewalk at the Blackfoot Rest Area in partnership with District 5 and District 6 staff. Students replaced old, cracked and damaged concrete to create a sidewalk that is now level and free of obstructions for the traveling public accessing the restroom facilities. Students also learned how to operate loaders, dozers, excavators, and skid steers utilizing simulators and getting behind-the-wheel in a land lab. 

Students networked with contractors on multiple occasions and had the opportunity to demonstrate their skills during Contractor Day. Many students have found employment this way and still work for the contractor to this day.

Fifteen students graduated from this program in 2022.

In the past, female participation has been around 10-15% and minority participation hovered around 20%. During this installment of the program, 40% of those who participated were female and 60% were minorities. Women made up only 11% of the construction industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 study, while minorities (especially non-Latino/non-Hispanics) are also vastly under-represented.

Eleven of the fifteen graduates were employed in the highway construction industry within 30 days of graduation. More than half of the students have applied to the Idaho Launch Program through the Idaho Workforce Development Council for funding to complete their Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs) during the winter-shutdown period this coming fall/winter.

The future for the ICONIC program includes “continuing to build partnerships, seek funding, and grow the program to focus on additional trades within the construction industry and lead the way in equity, safety, mobility, and economic opportunity,” said Phillips.

Eastbound lane closure this Friday on I-84 near Declo

Road Work Ahead sign

This Friday (Oct. 28), crews will close one eastbound lane on I-84 to place concrete barrier along the shoulder. Placement of the barrier is necessary to protect workers during construction of the new Port of Entry (POE) facility east of Declo.

Approximately three miles will be impacted with work taking place between milepost 217 and 2020. Both westbound lanes will remain open.

“This closure is expected to be short in duration,” ITD Project Manager John Keifer said. “We anticipate that work will be completed in one day, but it may extend into Monday if necessary.”

The new POE location on I-84 will facilitate more efficient trucking operations through advanced technology and will meet current federal compliance standards.

Elements of the new facility will include: new on and off ramps, support of utility infrastructure, scales with weigh-in-motion and automated vehicle identification technologies, video equipment, luminaries, signage and operations office buildings.

Drivers are advised to slow down, drive engaged and pay attention to signage in the area. Individuals can also check 511.idaho.gov for more information on road conditions and restrictions throughout the state.

Knife River is the general contractor on this project.

ITD wins safety award in AASHTO President’s competition for third time since 2017, demonstrating commitment

The award was received Oct. 22, by ITD officials, pictured left to right in photo: ITD Chief Engineer Blake Rindlisbacher, D5 District Engineer Todd Hubbard, and Chief Deputy/Chief Operations Officer Dan McElhinney.

The Statewide Asset Attribute Inventory (SWAAI) program for Idaho highways, an effort spearheaded by D5’s GIS Analyst Nik Sterbentz with collaboration from ITD districts across the Gem State, received the AASHTO President’s Transportation Award in the Safety category Saturday, Oct. 22 at the group’s annual conference. Previously, the components of Idaho’s 12,300-lane-mile state highway system were not inventoried in a convenient, central system. The SWAAI not only solves the current problem, but also sets ITD on a great course for the future.

It marks the third time since 1997 that Idaho has won the safety award from AASHTO (American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials) – the national group that oversees all state departments of transportation across the country. Since safety is one of ITD’s top priorities, the acknowledgement is especially gratifying.

“Winning this award in the Safety category is a great reflection of the constant value that safety is to each of us at ITD, and how each of us can contribute to the advancement of safety wherever it is we serve,” ITD Director Scott Stokes said. “This is who we are.”

The SWAAI program touches on several of ITD’s strategic goals, starting by saving nearly 300,000 personnel data collection hours and helping its planners identify ways to make ITD’s roads safer to drive. ITD can now fulfill many requests quickly and with much less labor, saving taxpayer dollars in the long run – an estimated $3.8 million saved in boots-on-the-ground collection costs alone.

Prior to the project, ITD lacked reliable comprehensive data inventories of key highway assets, including signs, guardrails, ADA ramps, sidewalks, and vertical clearance. Without reliable information, a data-driven approach to decision-making was frequently impossible, resulting in rushed, anecdotal, costly ad hoc solutions.

“It’s an opportunity for ITD to identify and implement numerous new, innovative practices and build on its legacy while proving its willingness to be open to revolutionary new improvements,” Sterbentz (pictured below) said about the SWAAI project.


To view the project, visit: https://swaai-iplan.hub.arcgis.com/

Public invited to open houses to comment on preliminary I-90 corridor designs

Traffic congestion I-90 near Huetter

ITD will host two open houses next week in Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene to present recommended designs to improve I-90 between the Washington state line and Sherman Avenue in Coeur d’Alene. The ongoing study is funded by the Leading Idaho program.

Each open house will present identical information and designs.

Post Falls

  • Tuesday, Nov. 1
  • 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Red Lion Hotel Templin’s on the River at 414 E 1st Ave

Coeur d’Alene

  • Wednesday, Nov. 2
  • 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn at 506 West Appleway Ave

For those not able to attend either open house, an online option will share the same information and will be available on Nov. 1 at itdprojects.org/i90corridor.

“Since the first stretch of I-90 was built in Kootenai County in 1960, ITD has made some upgrades, but the number of lanes has not changed,” said Erika Bowen, ITD Project Manager. “With traffic currently congested in various parts of the corridor and volumes expected to double by 2045, ITD is studying the interstate to identify improvements to modernize the system, reduce crashes and save drivers time.”

Proposed improvements include adding lanes on I-90, modifying access and upgrading interchanges with impacts to local roads in both cities. Areas with proposed improvements include:

  • Spokane Street and Seltice Way Interchanges
  • Northwest Boulevard Interchange
  • US-95 and Fourth Street Interchanges
  • Seventh Street Bridge
  • Sherman Avenue Interchange
Blue and white circular logo for "Leading Idaho" projects sponsored by Governor Little
Blue and white circular logo for “Leading Idaho” projects sponsored by Governor Little

Following the study and public input, the recommended projects will be prioritized and advanced into design and construction as funding becomes available.

The study is funded with Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation (TECM) funds as part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative. The 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.

The corridor is one of 13 approved TECM corridors in the state. Funding for the future design and construction phases on this corridor will be determined based on project readiness and funding availability. Preliminary estimates value the improvements needed in this corridor at $1 billion to $1.2 billion, which includes design, right-of-way and construction costs. A previously funded project to redesign the SH-41 interchange at I-90 is currently under construction.

To stay up to date on the I-90 corridor project, visit itdprojects.org/i90corridor and sign up for email updates.


SH-3 north of St. Maries reopened with wider, safer shoulders

Fall sunshine on a curve on a widened highway

Earlier today State Highway 3 north of St. Maries reopened with wider, safe shoulders. Traffic had been detoured to Goosehaven Road since work began in April.  

Construction widened the highway 11 feet to the east, making room for 11-foot travel lanes and 3-foot shoulders. Guardrail was also added along the east side.

“The people that drive on this road every day had to drive on a really narrow road with no shoulders,” said Phil Lampert, Benewah County Commissioner. “This project makes it safer for everyone in the community and those who visit.”

Projects previously proposed to widen the highway had stalled due to environmental challenges and funding restraints.

“When we sat down with county commissioners three years ago, we heard that the desire for this project had only grown over the years,” said Bill Moad, the Idaho Transportation Board Chair. “After that meeting, we decided to use some of our own state funding to get design started.”

With new funding allocated by the board, design began in April 2020. Typically projects are developed through a seven-year process, but with local stakeholders willing to provide a detour for highway traffic, the project was expedited.

“That was a game changer,” said Jim Thompson, the board member for North Idaho. “There was no way to make these changes and accommodate traffic. Offering a detour showed how invested they were in the project, so we prioritized it.”

The three-mile section of highway cuts through wetlands, complicating any expansion effort. Traditionally, highways are expanded by importing embankment material and building the base outwards, but SH-3 was built on soft soils. Extra weight would collapse the soft soils and cause settlement problems for the highway; expanding outwards would also affect nearby wetlands that would trigger mitigation processes with other agencies. To get the safety improvements built sooner, the team wanted to find a way to avoid enlarging the highway past state property.

“We looked at a few options and using geofoam for the fill inside a wall system gave us an economical, lightweight solution,” said Erica Aamodt, ITD project manager for construction. “Since it can be stacked in blocks on top of each other, the foam would allow for a wider roadway without having to go outside of state-owned land.”

While geofoam has been used for other ITD projects—namely for the Topaz Bridge on U.S. Highway 30 near McCammon—this project uses more of it and over a curving length of three miles.  The project was bid for $12.7 million, and work began in April, with contractor Knife River planning to build the project in one season—rather than two—thanks to the availability of a detour.

“Partnership is what ultimately made this project happen,” Aamodt said. “We knew this project would be tough to deliver and inconvenient for drivers and residents with the detour, but we all came together because we knew we could get it done in one season and it’d be worth it.”

Jack Buell, owner of Buell Trucking and a former county commissioner, has long advocated for the project and remembers taking Governor John Evans for a ride on the highway to convince him it needed to be widened.

“The best part is that the State of Idaho decided to fix it, and they fixed it,” Buell said.

System Interchange Construction in Full Swing

Leading Idaho - TECM Program

POCATELLO – The Idaho Transportation Department’s rebuild of the System Interchange for I-86 and I-15 at Pocatello is in full swing with crews working multiple areas throughout the worksite. As part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative, the project is quickly changing how the heart of the Interstate in Pocatello appears.

The lowering of the ramp for westbound traffic from northbound I-15 to I-86 is now complete and work on building the new bridges is beginning. Temporary barriers are in place at multiple locations and motorists will also notice changes in lane striping as traffic is shifted away from work areas.

View of construction site at System Interchange looking south with large crane in center
Cranes are being placed to begin drilling shafts for bridge piers.

One safety innovation being implemented is the use of a conveyor belt system to move earth fill from one area of the project to another. The conveyor allows crews to move material without using trucks entering and exiting the Interstate. That makes for a safer work zone for drivers and work crews. It is important that public keep clear of the conveyor system for their own safety.

In the coming weeks cranes will appear on the project and begin drilling shafts for new bridge piers. Excavators and other earthmoving equipment are also working in multiple areas to reprofile the land. Throughout the work zone water trucks are being utilized to keep dust down. Inspectors and engineers are also on-site daily ensuring safety and compliance with designs.

Near the end of the month or early next month pile driving will begin in the northern portion of the work area. There will be some associated noise during this portion of the operation.

Speed limits in the work area are now set at 55mph and should always be carefully observed, day and night. Crews are working long hours including some night work. Drivers should also know that lane configurations are changing and should be prepared to adjust to the difference by watching for signs and following pavement markings.

It is especially important with such a large project that motorists plan for extra time and to be patient with other drivers by allowing them to merge and change lanes as needed. Sharing the road and watching for workers and construction vehicles entering the Interstate is essential to keeping everyone safe.

The historic rebuild of the I-86/I-15 System Interchange was the outgrowth of a need to replace aging bridges and improve safety. The bridges, built in the 1960s, are currently safe but needed to be replaced due to their age. Failure to do so would result in a need to place restrictive load limits which would hinder commerce.

Water truck spraying dusty ground to control dust
Water trucks are working tirelessly to keep dust from construction to a minimum.

ITD also noted an increase in aggressive lane changes and congestion within the interchange, particularly just north of the Pocatello Creek exit. The rapid motion of entering I-15 at Pocatello Creek and crossing to the passing lane to exit toward Chubbuck did not exist when the interchange was built. However, with population growth and associated development that traffic is now significant. Such “exit left” and “enter left” movements do not meet driver expectations, cause confusion, and results in frustration for drivers.

Another much-needed improvement was a redesign of the Chubbuck Road crossing. The old 1962 bridge is narrow and has limited capacity for pedestrians and bicyclists. With the growth of Pocatello and the addition of the Portneuf Wellness Complex a significant change was needed. ITD’s new design changes Chubbuck Road from being an overpass over I-15 to an underpass beneath the freeway with dedicated bike lanes and wider sidewalks. Removal of the bridge also creates more space for the larger project to handle increased traffic.

Once completed, the new System Interchange will be safer and ready to carry the increased traffic volumes for the fastest growing state in America.

This video describes how the new interchange will work and improve mobility and safety for the public – https://youtu.be/KRdVBAyXweA 

Project details and updates are available here on ITD’s projects website https://itdprojects.org/projects/i-86-i-15-system-interchange/

This project is partially funded with Transportation Expansion and Congestion Mitigation (TECM) funds as part of Governor Little’s Leading Idaho initiative. The 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.

View of earthmoving equipment looking south near Pocatello Creek Exit
Earthmoving equipment is working throughout the System Interchange project site


View of concrete rail on Chubbuck Road showing the date 1962
The age of the 1960s era bridges necessitated their replacement.


I-86 to I-15 detour scheduled for tonight

POCATELLO – Beginning this evening at approximately 8:00 p.m. paint crews will be restriping the ramp from I-86 to I-15 southbound. Work will continue through the night and will end at approximately 6:00 am tomorrow. During the restriping work the ramp will be closed and southbound traffic will be detoured through the Northgate Interchange. While it is hoped the work will be completed in one night, there is a possibility the detour will also be used Thursday night to finish striping.

Motorists should carefully follow road signs, obey work zone speed limits, and share the road with other vehicles navigating detours.

Those interested in receiving regular updates on the project can visit the project website at https://itdprojects.org/i-86-i-15-system-interchange and sign-up for email updates.

I-86/I-15 October Detour