Aug. 23 update: Weekend closures scheduled for Aug. 24-Aug. 27 have been postponed. New dates will be shared in the new future.
BOISE– Ongoing improvements to the Interstate 84/Karcher Interchange in Nampa will require two closures the week of August 20. Motorists should plan ahead and consider an alternate route on the following dates:
Wed., Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. to Thurs., Aug. 23 at 5 a.m.: The interchange will be closed while crews install new traffic signals at the Midland Boulevard/Karcher Bypass intersection and remove two overhead signs. Midland Boulevard, Karcher Bypass, Exit 33 A, 33B and the westbound entrance ramp will all be closed to traffic. Motorists will be detoured via Nampa/Caldwell Boulevard and the Karcher Connector.
Fri., Aug. 24 at 8 p.m. – Mon. Aug. 27 at 5 a.m.: Exit Ramp 33A will be closed to traffic while crews reconstruct and modify the ramp. Westbound I-84 motorists will be directed to use Exit 35 at Northside Blvd instead of Exit 33A during this closure.
The project includes the following improvements:
*Eliminating exit 33B and adding lanes at exit 33A/Midland Blvd.
*Adding a second southbound lane to Midland Blvd.
*Adding a second left turn lane from the Karcher Bypass to southbound Midland Blvd.
*Upgrading sidewalks and traffic signals
Every summer, thousands of residents from the Treasure Valley escape the heat of the valley floor and head north into the cool beauty of the mountains, especially on weekends. When it’s time for all those people to head home Sunday night, traffic can get congested on our mountain roads.
Recently, a number of people have reached out to ITD concerned about one intersection in particular: Idaho Highway 55 and the Banks-Lowman Road. Those who sought recreation and cooler climes in Crouch or Garden Valley can find themselves in a long line of vehicles waiting to turn left (south) onto ID-55.
So, what’s to be done? Why is congestion so bad? What’s ITD doing about it? This article is part of an effort by the Idaho Transportation Department to provide information about the situation, what the Department is doing, and what some options may be moving forward.
Idaho 55 is a major corridor connecting the Treasure Valley, and some of the most pristine recreational destinations in America: Garden Valley, Cascade, Donnelly, and McCall. also one of two options for Treasure Valley residents to access Central and Northern Idaho, the other being US-95.
Because of this, ID-55 sees a major increase in traffic on the weekends. On a typical summer weekday, the section by Banks sees about 6,500 trips, split equally headed north and south. So there’s roughly 3,250 cars heading north and 3,250 cars heading south in a given day.
To give you a point of reference, let’s compare that section of ID-55 with other two-lane facilities in Southwest Idaho. ID-55 in Nampa sees around 18,500 weekday trips. US-20/26 in Meridian sees around 21,000 trips each day during the week. And a two lane section of ID-44 (State St.) west of Eagle experiences 23,500 daily trips in the work week.
The traffic situation does change on summer weekends for the section of ID-55 by Banks. Traffic significantly increases and is directional. On Friday and Saturday, most of that traffic is heading north. On Sunday, nearly all that traffic is heading south.
The high volume of southbound traffic does mean it can take a while for a safe opening to appear for those waiting to turn left out of the Banks-Lowman Road. Between the waits for an opening, and the increased number of people leaving the Garden Valley area, you get congestion and increased drive times.
What does this mean? When we look at the data, the intersection of ID-55 and the Banks-Lowman Road functions well Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, for a few hours in the afternoon as everyone that traveled up during the week heads home, traffic on ID-55 is heavy and speeds are reduced. The flow on ID-55 is reasonably uninterrupted but there are long wait times for those turning left on the highway from the Banks-Lowman Road. Data reveal the significant congestion concern primarily happens for a few hours during the 15 Sundays of summer (Memorial Day to Labor Day).
Safety of the intersection
In addition to the concerns of congestion, people are concerned this might be a dangerous intersection. We can look to the data and see how things compare.
Our current confirmed traffic crash data goes up to 2016. If we look at the five-year history of this intersection, from 2012-2016, there have been 4 reportable crashes. Two of those crashes resulted only in property damage. One resulted in one person suffering minor injuries. The final crash resulted in one serious injury and two minor injuries. We are aware of the crash that occurred recently, involving the tragic loss of one life and injury to several others, not yet reported in our database.
Additionally, the Department tracks High Accident Locations (HAL) across the state and ranks them. The ranking is determined by the frequency of crashes (how many there have been), the severity of those crashes, and the rate of crashes (crashes per 1 million miles traveled). Based on current data, this intersection does not rank in the top 1,000 HAL intersections across the state. By comparison, the intersection of ID-55 and ID-44 in Eagle is #92.
As the Department weighs decisions, a number of factors are taken into consideration. Data, such as that outlined above, is one of those. The Department’s mission is “Your Safety. Your Mobility. Your Economic Opportunity.” So we gather the best data regarding these three factors to make sound decisions on how to best invest our limited transportation dollars
We care about you, the people of Idaho who we serve. Hearing from you is very important to us. It’s important we give you the information so you see what we see, and better understand how we make these decisions.
Our main effort to mitigate heavy weekend travel at this intersection is to flag it during the holiday weekends, when traffic is at its highest. Those weekends are Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. Flagging is effective because the person at the intersection can make judgement calls in the moment and quickly stop and redirect traffic. Flagging costs the Department around $5,000 a day.
A long-range solution
Flagging can help improve traffic flow on busy weekends, but Idaho is growing and traffic is growing with it. So what can be done to decrease congestion at the ID-55 and Banks-Lowman Road intersection?
Before exploring these, it’s important to once again put this intersection in context. It does not rank high in terms of congestion or safety concerns. That’s a significant consideration when it comes to getting the most bang for the taxpayers’ buck. That said, ITD has been investigating possible opportunities for changes.
The following are some of the solutions ITD is exploring. Currently, there are no plans to implement any of these. Each of them will have trade-offs we want the public to consider.
1. Traffic Signal
This is the most popular suggestion we’ve received from the public. It’s an understandable solution. If the problem is cars coming down ID-55 not giving an opening for those turning out of Banks-Lowman, put in a signal to stop the highway traffic long enough to move some people out.
Well, it gets a little more complicated than that.
First, the one-lane bridge to the boat landing, owned by the United States Forest Service, makes for an unusual intersection. In order to safely direct traffic on and off that leg, you need some extended signal timing, which will add considerable wait times and therefore congestion, primarily to ID-55, but also impacting Banks-Lowman Rd.
Another concern is that a signal will force the currently free-flowing traffic on ID-55 to stop. This creates a queue. As that queue backs up, major safety concerns arise. Imagine a driver coming down the mountain going 55mph, turning a corner and suddenly coming upon break lights. A signal adds new safety and mobility concerns, with every bit as much risk of serious injury as the existing condition, and possibly more overall delay for travelers.
A roundabout can keep traffic flowing and provide better opportunity for those coming off Banks-Lowman to get onto the highway.
Again, you have the issue of the one-lane bridge complicating things. Legs of a roundabout typically allow two-way travel.
Roundabouts also require a big footprint, something this intersection doesn’t have. Things are very tight with three of the quadrants bordered by rivers and the last hugging a mountainside. A roundabout would either require a massive bridge structure or significant carving out of the mountainside.
3. Third Lane
The Department has begun exploring the option of adding a third lane that would accept southbound traffic. The concept is this lane be open for left-turning traffic from Banks-Lowman to turn into that serves as a refuge from ID-55 southbound traffic. A vehicle could turn into this lane and gain speed to merge with ID-55.
We anticipate this project would require a new bridge on the south leg of the intersection to accommodate the extra lane, and we’d have to cut into the mountainside north and south of Banks-Lowman to make room for the lane and the tapers before and after.
The silver lining for this option is the age of the bridge on ID-55. Though it is safe today, it will have to be replaced in the near future due to its age and condition. Replacing it with a wider bridge becomes much more cost-effective at that time. Currently, this bridge is not scheduled for replacement in our 7-year plans.
The Bottom Line
We have absolutely heard from those of you wanting ITD to “fix this problem.” Hopefully this article shows we continue to look at ways to address the issue and that there’s no easy solution.
As we consider all of these actions, we have to weigh the cost benefit. The long-range options explored above will cost tens of millions of dollars. And in the context of crash data and congestion, it is far from our highest priority. That does not eliminate the possibility of making improvements, it just makes it much harder.
In the meantime, we continue to commit to flagging on the busy holiday weekends. We will continue to explore other alternatives.
We also encourage those who recreate on the weekends along this corridor to plan ahead. Consider leaving earlier or later to avoid the heaviest travel times. Consider alternate routes such as Idaho Highway 21 – the folks at Lowman and Idaho City would be happy to see you. Most importantly, anticipate that congestion is a reality during the summer weekends and use your best behavior to stay safe and keep your fellow motorists safe.
BOISE – ITD’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) group recently earned the Special Achievement in GIS, or SAG Award, on July 11 at the annual Esri User Conference in San Diego. Esri is the global market leader in GIS software, and selected ITD from more than 300,000 eligible organizations worldwide to receive the award for innovative application of mapping, data analytics, and thought leadership in the field of transportation.
This work benefits the department, but also is a step toward greater access to road data for the public.
This roadway location intelligence will be available to local government entities and highway districts to provide accurate disbursement of federal highway dollars,” ITD Senior Service Delivery Manager Jeff Carpenter explained. “This data will be available to the public for use in urban planning, environmental impact analysis, disaster management, natural resource management and health-care planning. GIS location intelligence can help in many aspects of community development and planning.”
And here is the interesting part about this award:
ITD did not apply for it. The agency was selected, unsolicited.
Esri looked at the work ITD is doing, then sent it to a group of peers for review, and they nominated the department for the award. Linear Referencing expert Amit Hazra said that ITD has the best road-network data that he has worked with in doing roads and highways implementation projects.
The award selection was cemented by the high quality of ITD’s road network, specifically the road data for each ITD district.
ITD’s system provides quicker access to data, which can then be used to make data-driven decisions about planning, project funding, or asset management.
There were 134 countries represented in San Diego, and 21,000 people on hand.
“There was a single example of excellence used in the transportation category, and it was Idaho,” Carpenter said.
Back Row: Sydney Lewis, Brian Ness, Will Thoman, Jeff Carpenter Front Row: David Fulton, Nicole Hanson, Wendy Bates, Tyler Jackson Not Pictured: Michael Miller, Brian Smith
BOISE- Driver’s license transactions times have shortened in county offices as staff get more familiar with new software, and issues are being addressed through software solutions. County offices are also catching up due to higher than average customer volume due to the Aug. 9-10 closures statewide. On Aug. 13, transactions were being processed at 65 percent. Today that number is closer to 90 percent. ITD appreciates the patience of our customers and county staff as we work through this transition.
8:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 17
BOISE – The average wait time for customers making driver’s licensing transactions yesterday (Thursday, Aug. 16) shortened yesterday as workers in the county DMV offices statewide and at ITD get more familiar and comfortable using the new system.
Licensing transactions exceeded 1,700 for the third consecutive day after a slower start Monday.
Drivers licensing offices statewide processing more transactions than usual
9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 16
BOISE – The number of driver’s license transactions remain above normal levels, as workers at county offices continue to get accustomed to new software introduced Monday at DMV offices statewide and ITD fine-tunes the system.
Larger-than-average crowds and the new system are combining for wait times that are slightly higher than average.
There were more than 1,700 licenses and identification cards issued Wednesday.
Drivers licensing offices process more transactions today, as service times get faster
5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14
BOISE – The number of drivers licenses issued went up at nearly every county office today (Tuesday, Aug. 14) compared to yesterday as staff continue to learn the newly upgraded software system.
Here are some numbers: Statewide offices issued 2,079 licenses and identification cards today, compared to 1,384 all of yesterday (Monday, Aug. 13).
In Ada County, the largest in Idaho, the number went from 159 yesterday to 420. In Kootenai County, with both Coeur d ‘Alene and Post Falls offices open today, 210 credentials were issued, compared to just 82 yesterday. The Post Falls office was closed yesterday. Canyon County was at 173 today, up from 135 yesterday.
As county staff learn continue to learn the system, DMV officials expect the number to rise on a daily basis. Customers are still encouraged to wait until next week if they don’t need renew a license or identification card right away.
Drivers licensing offices statewide open, but slower processing times expected
8 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14
BOISE – County driver’s licensing offices statewide are up and running today (Tuesday, Aug. 14), but processing times may be slowed as staff continues working with new software recently brought online.
Although the new processes and workflow were challenging, offices statewide processed approximately 1,300 transactions and were running much more smoothly by the end of the day. The 1,300 transactions represent about 65% of normal activity for a Monday.
“We appreciate the patience of customers and our county partners we get used to the new system,” said Alberto Gonzalez, Idaho’s DMV Administrator. “There will continue to be longer service times as county staff work through the new software, so if you can wait until next week to process your transaction, we encourage you to do so. If you can’t wait, we just ask that you be patient with the delays as we work through these issues.”
“We apologize for any inconvenience, but are incredibly grateful that people are patient with us as we get up-to-speed,” he added.
The Idaho Transportation Department will begin constructing a series of safety improvements on Idaho Highway 69 (Meridian Road) in Meridian and Kuna next week. Motorists are advised to expect nighttime lane restrictions on the highway until early October.
Improvements will include:
Resurfacing ID-69 between Orchard Avenue in Kuna and Overland Road in Meridian.
Adding traffic signals at Hubbard and Lake Hazel roads.
Installing a median barrier to reduce left-turn crashes between Calderwood Drive and Overland Road.
Reconfiguring lanes at the intersection of Meridian and Overland roads to improve traffic flow.
ITD worked closely with the city of Meridian and Ada County Highway Department to develop the improvements after a recent safety analysis of the corridor. Crashes on ID-69 increased by nearly 50 percent between 2011 and 2016. ITD reached out to businesses earlier this year to discuss plans for this project.
Throughout this project, crews will work from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on week nights (Sunday-Thursday) and 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. One lane will be closed in both directions and flaggers will direct traffic at intersections. All lanes will be open during the day.
To request email updates about this project, text SH69 to 22828. For more details, visit itdprojects.org or contact ITD at (208) 334-8938 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.
US-12 will be closed near Fish Creek Bridge on Friday night to allow contractors to retrieve a crane that went off the road last Thursday (Aug. 2).
A full closure is anticipated from 8 p.m. on Friday, August 10 to 8 a.m. on Saturday, August 11.
Due to the narrow and windy nature of the corridor, there are limited turnaround opportunities for larger vehicles. Drivers of larger vehicles are advised to wait for the highway to reopen or to turnaround before milepost 99 or milepost 120 to seek alternate routes.
For more information on this closure, check 511 or the project website.
The fire began near milepost 184 on July 23 and spread quickly through the corridor, according to Molly Cropp, a public information officer for this team of multi-agency professionals mobilized to address long-term incidents.
No structures have been lost, but this human-caused fire is still under investigation and is currently 42% contained. More than 450 emergency management professionals have mobilized into the area, with 12 hand crews, 21 engines and four helicopters working to protect citizens, their homes and the infrastructure they rely on, Cropp said.
That infrastructure includes the highway, which is currently experiencing increased traffic as crews drive between the fire and their base camp at the rodeo grounds north of Slate Creek. Safety concerns for crews, along with low visibility, prompted a meeting between the management team and ITD.
“With the fire initially visible from the highway, there were concerns of collisions between crews and regular commuters, especially with all of the smoke,” ITD north-central Idaho Operations Manager Bob Schumacher said. “We’ve decided to reduce the speed limit from 65 mph to 45 mph for the duration of the fire or until visibility improves.”
Right now travelers should expect large trucks making turns onto, and out of, less-used routes. Cropp, along with Schumacher, encourages the public to remain engaged while driving and to avoid stopping on the highway to take pictures.
“We’ve also been relying on air resources because the terrain around the fire is so steep, and we can’t get people in there,” Cropp said. “The speed restriction through the fire area has been really helpful; our helicopters have been flying over the highway to access nearby lakes.”
This time of year, and especially in this area, it is also important to understand the fire restrictions that are in place and to use common sense.
“Flashy fuels grow next to the highway, so don’t throw any cigarettes out the window,” Cropp said. “What starts as a small brush fire can quickly turn into a big fire.”
To learn more about the Rattlesnake Fire, view daily updates at the InciWeb page.
Plenty of folks fish along the Lochsa River that flows beside US-12 in north-central Idaho, but not many get to electrofish.
Electrofishing is a technique used by agencies such as Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) to safely survey fish. It involves sending electricity into the water to temporarily stun fish to easily capture them with nets.
“It’s a way to sample fish without killing them,” said Joe DuPont, IDFG fisheries manager for the Clearwater region. “It allows us to get our hands on them and learn more.”
At the request of ITD, IDFG recently sent fisheries technicians to electrofish Maggie Creek, which flows under a bridge that is currently being replaced. They were able to collect important data* by surveying the fish before transporting them further upstream.
DuPont said as state agencies IDFG and ITD work together to share resources and expertise to save the state money.
ITD purposefully stages in-water work such as pier removal during a fish window, or a time when impacts to fish will be at its lowest. For District 2, that window is from July 15 to August 15.
“One month can be a tight timeframe for agencies to work within,” D2 senior environmental planner Shawn Smith said. “We appreciate IDFG’s continued partnership as we work to enhance the safety of the highway for the public while limiting impacts to the area’s valued resources.”
Following electrofishing, Smith said crews were able to use cofferdams to isolate a section of the stream without trapping any species. For the remainder of construction, fish will continue to swim upstream unimpeded.
Fish Creek Bridge, which is also under construction, will experience similar efforts by IDFG and ITD in the coming weeks.
*IDFG fisheries technicians found 1 rainbow trout, 13 speckled dace, 16 sculpin, 5 northern pike minnows, 3 suckers and 1 redside shiner while electrofishing.
Idaho has a network of businesses, organizations, nonprofits, churches, and individuals who want a safe place to work, raise their kids, and have fun. Unfortunately, there is a darker aside that also finds Idaho appealing.
Sex trafficking buyers and sellers also find Idaho to be a great place to conduct business.
The Idaho Anti-Trafficking group is actively fighting it. And over the next few days, we’re hoping you’ll join in the fight, too.
“We must come together as a community and take a stand against this horrific business,” said Kevin Zielinski of the Idaho Anti-Trafficking Coalition.
Traffickers rely on our highways and interstates to conduct their nefarious business, so ITD takes the responsibility very seriously to combat these influences.
Idaho has always been known as a great place to live, with beautiful sites, parks, rivers, recreation, schools, and neighborhoods. Yet our children, youth, and adults fall prey to human trafficking right here in our backyards.
Let’s get back to watching out for friends and neighbors and make a clear statement that #idahofightsHT
US-12 winds its way through the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and along the banks of the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, serving as a scenic gateway to a range of outdoor activities from bicycling to rafting.
This summer, recreationists will see lines of orange barrels as the Idaho Transportation Department oversees the construction of $17 million in safety improvements.
Four projects to replace two bridges and repave 50 miles of the remote highway will likely delay the average traveler nearly two hours between Kamiah and the Idaho-Montana border. Given the impacts, project managers have strived from the beginning to be responsive to community concerns and to look at the corridor in its context.
As the project manager for three of the four projects, Janet Zarate has been at the forefront of brainstorming strategies to minimize effects where possible. With the help of her supervisor Joe Schacher, they’ve initiated an innovative partnership between contractors, a rafting company and ITD.
“This route is very popular among cyclists,” Zarate said. “It was important throughout the process to consider our impacts on this group, and by thinking outside of the box, I think we’ve found a way to do that.”
Zarate and Schacher worked with Knife River, the contractor of the paving operations, to come up with some creative ideas to mitigate construction impacts to this particular group.
With paving work underway, cyclists would be faced with long work zones and a highway crowded with drivers anxious to get on their way. Knife River suggested using school buses to load these two-wheeled travelers with their equipment, but Schacher posed a different solution: offer a daytime biker shuttle, operated by a local rafting company, to give them a respite by transporting them safely through the work zone.
Just last week, Three Rivers Rafting of Lowell accepted the offer.
“This partnership makes sense because at this time of year, the river doesn’t run as high, and there are fewer rafters,” Schacher said. “During their season, these companies routinely shuttle their customers up and down the river, and we didn’t see a reason for that to end this year. They have the right equipment, and we can give them an opportunity to economically benefit from construction.”
This partnership is not the first involving this project—ITD engineers have frequently met with local stakeholders, including the U.S. Forest Service as they prepare to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
“This highway means a lot to our stakeholders, whether they access it to go hiking, fishing, biking or just to enjoy the scenery,” Schacher said. “Knowing that, we’ve worked with others to be as conscientious as possible while planning and managing construction in the corridor.”